KYIV, Ukraine — Tens of thousands of drones have been employed across Ukraine to kill the enemy, spy on its formations and guide bombs to their targets. But this month the Ukrainian military began a program to use drones in a more unusual role: to guide Russian soldiers who want to surrender.
The program had its genesis in late November, when the Ukrainian military released footage of a Russian soldier throwing his weapon to the ground, raising his hands and nervously following a path set out by a drone overhead, leading him to soldiers from the Ukrainian army’s 54th Mechanized Brigade.
A few weeks later, the Ukrainian General Staff released an instructional video explaining how Russian soldiers can surrender to a Ukrainian drone, and it is now part of a wide-ranging effort by Ukraine to persuade Russian soldiers to give up. The program, called “I want to live,” includes a phone hotline, a website and a Telegram channel all dedicated to communicating to Russian soldiers and their families.
It’s too early to know whether the drone effort will lure Russian deserters in any meaningful numbers. But it adds another avenue for Ukraine to recruit Russian deserters, this one with a distinctly modern twist to the age-old tactic of informational warfare. And if nothing else, it may further the erosion of Russian morale on the battlefield.