Urgent sanctions call for deadly manufacturer of Russian drones
Turret of a Russian tank near Robotyne is sent flying by a drone strike
With Russia stepping up its drone strikes on Ukraine significantly in recent weeks, defence industry insiders and Kyiv officials have demanded to know why the designer of the deadly loitering munitions is not currently subject to sanctions by the UK Government.
Aleksandr Zakharov is a Russian scientist and creator of the Lancet drones currently bringing death and destruction to Ukraine on an industrial scale.
Lancets have been credited with blunting Ukraine’s counteroffensive, targeting primarily critical military infrastructure targets, as well as some civilian ones.
According to open source data, Lancets were used to carry out more than 500 strikes on Ukrainian targets as of August 3, destoying 170 of them.
However, neither Zakharov nor his family, many of whom are employed by him, are subject to any international sanctions – and his son even owns a £1.5million property less than a mile from Buckingham Palace.
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Zakharov is the co-owner, along with Sergey Chemezov, a close friend of Vladimir Putin, of CST, a subsidiary of Kalashnikov, which trades under the name Zala Aero Group. The company’s chief designer, Zakharov owns a 50.85 percent stake.
One defence industry insider, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Express.co.uk Zakharov has been working on his project, based in the Russian city of Izhevsk, since 2006.
The Russian Ministry of Defence bought huge numbers of Lancet drones in early 2022 from Zakharov’s company spending roughly £43 million (5.3 billion roubles), the source explained.
He continued: “They also purchased them in 2023 as drones showed to be very effective at the war zone in Ukraine and destroyed a lot of Ukraine Army military equipment as well as Western allies’ supplies and personnel.”
“His production site is in Izhevsk, where he bought the ItalMas shopping mall, and produced Lancet drones in huge quantities 24/7.”
Zakharov’s son, Nikita, has been in the drone business since 2014 and owns Aeroscan, CST’s main subcontractor, while Orion, a company owned by Zakharov’s daughter, also supplies spares to her father’s company. Zakharov’s wife Svetlana is also involved in the business, the source said.
Additionally, Zakharov’s other son, Lavrentii, is known to have studied in London and from May 2023 has worked in Geneva at UNIDIR Institute of disarmament.
A Land Registry document shows that he and wife Svetlana paid £1,495,000 for an apartment in Marsham Street, London SW1P 3DS – yards from Buckingham Palace, Downing Street, and numerous Government departments including the Home Office.
He added: “Aleksandr Zakharov is not under UK sanctions as well as his family members but his company CST is under sanctions from Ukraine, Australia, and the UK but not Europe and US.
“Why do UK authorities not introduce sanctions against Aleksandr Zakharov and his family?”
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Olena Bilousova, a consultant on strategic projects at the Kyiv School of Economics. said Russia, previously heavily reliant on Iranian Shahed 131 and 136 drones, was now ramping up production of Lancets.
She told Express.co.uk: “Russian occupation forces have progressively integrated Lancet UAVs into their operations against Ukraine. These drones are being used to target critical military assets.”
The frequency of Lancet deployment by Russia had risen considerably during the Ukrainian counteroffensive, Ms Bilousova pointed out.
She added: “Notably, instances of Lancet UAVs being deployed against civilian infrastructure have also emerged.”
She and her colleagues were “aware” of Zakharov, Ms Bilousova stressed.
She continued: “We see that he, as well as his family members, are deeply engaged in military production in Russia. We also see a lot of their companies engaged in the process of production of Lancets and suggest putting them under sanct
Ms Bilousova said: “We don’t see any reasons why this family is still not sanctioned by the UK and other sanction coalition countries.
“In addition to this, we still see that some major producers of important Russian military equipment were not sanctioned.”
This was likely a result of the slow process of imposing sanctions, which can often involve considerable investigations, Ms Bilousova conceded.
However, she added: “We also suggest simplifying these procedures to make faster decisions at least on such obvious cases like with Zakharov family.
“This is a very important step, as it takes a lot of time to sanction someone, but on the other hand it is very easy to establish a new company to evade sanctions. So with such slow reactions, Russia can always be one step ahead in circumventing sanctions.”
Anton Mikhnenko, Editor-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Defense Review, agreed.
He told Express.co.uk: “In my opinion, all individuals and legal entities who supply weapons or their components for the Russian army should be responsible.
“Sanction restrictions should be imposed on them. And they definitely shouldn’t be free to do business abroad.”
LLC CST is described in a Financial Sanctions Notice issued by the Treasury’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation as “a Russian based Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) manufacturer”.
Asked about Zakharov and his relatives, an FCDO spokesman told Express.cu.uk: “We do not comment on potential future designations.”
The other Russian owners of the arms manufacturer are on the UK sanction list.
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