BARS volunteers. Putin's "cannon fodder".

(To Nicola Cristadoro)

In the second half of January 2023, the influx to the training area of ​​Kadamovskiy (Rostov-on-Don region) of reservists recruited with the "partial mobilization" of September was noted, for a preparation period waiting to be sent at the front. These reservists would mainly be destined to compensate for the serious losses among the ranks of the units of the "National Reserve of Combat Forces" (Boyevoy Armeyskiy Rezerv Strany – BARS) and of the “Wagner” Group. Much has been said about the "Wagner" Group, but little is known about the BARS departments.

First of all it must be said that these departments have nothing to do with the homonymous unit, the 26th OSN1 "Bars" ("Leopard") of the special forces formerly employed by the Ministry of the Interior and now classified in the National Guard with counter-terrorism tasks.2

Instead, these are the forces created under a program launched in 2021 and developed in accordance with the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation “On the creation of a reserve of mobilization personnel of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation”, with which the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation has decided to increase the reserve of personnel to be activated in the event of national mobilization for war needs, based on specific requirements.

According to what was claimed by the country's military leaders, it would not have been a preparation for war, but an activity planned to improve the country's defense capabilities and keep the Armed Forces ready to carry out the tasks assigned to them. In retrospect, however, some mental reservations arise spontaneously, regarding the intellectual honesty for which the reasons for this preparation of fresh and readily available forces are really those declared. By the way, according to the Russian Defense Ministry, since 2016 every year units with reservists have participated in all major exercises taking place from Kamchatka to Kaliningrad, from the Arctic Circle to Crimea.

Constantly and systematically training reservists implies considerable costs for an armed force and, if one does not have precise objectives, it is one of the items on which one intervenes promptly when it comes to making "defense cuts".

Let's see, then, what the new project consists of. In short, the "National Combat Forces Reserve" is made up of tens of thousands of volunteer reservists who have passed a rigorous screening methods at the military enlistment offices and signed a signed contract with the Defense. Priority is given to those who have recently been discharged and have not yet lost their military skills in the most in-demand military occupational specialties. The candidate must be suitable for military service (1st category) or with minor limitations (2nd category) and have attended at least the "9 classes of general education", which in the Russian school system correspond to our "middle school". Subsequently, based on the results of a psycho-aptitude selection, he is judged suitable or not to be classified in the chosen specialty.

To those who offer to serve in the "active reserve",3 the Ministry of Defense promises financial incentives, but not only. First of all, participation in the project provides discounts for those who have already done military service and, after some time, wish to enlist as a "contract" soldier - volunteers with extended service (kontratniki) – with the possibility of a career also in officer positions, on the recommendation of their commanders and superiors. It is also guaranteed the instruction to drive military vehicles and a high standard of shooting training with different types of weapons. Particularly attractive, however, are the concessions for admission to 35 universities of the Russian Defense Ministry for training, retraining or improvement in 159 specialties and civilian professions and the possibility of receiving qualified medical assistance. It is interesting to see the advertisement for enlistment in the reserve made by the Russian Ministry of Defense:

BARS – 20214

THE ARMY OF RUSSIA offers you a unique opportunity. Realize your ambitions, show your abilities, gain public recognition and benefit the Motherland, prove yourself and your loved ones that you can do more!!!


Additional education.

financial incentives.

Qualified medical assistance.


Excellent physical shape.

Skill in handling unique types of weapons and proficiency in the use of various equipment.

Loyal friends and unforgettable impressions.


A breathtaking large-scale Army maneuvers, trainings and activities.


Diverse and extraordinarily beautiful landscapes of our country.


Let's see how the selection process for BARS works. In 2021, the Southern Military District became the experimental site for the implementation of the project. At the time, Colonel Igor Egorov, military commissar of the Rostov region, explained that the region's military registration and enlistment office had been tasked with setting up a reserve of personnel for mobilization in the Russian armed forces.5 It must be said that as early as 2015 the Southern Military District had been involved in an experiment to introduce a new troop equipment system, employing citizens who had signed a contract to become part of the reserve personnel, according to the criteria in force at the time.

In 2021, therefore, the Kremlin's decision to increase the number of reservists gave the region's Military Commissariat the task of selecting about 5.000 people, with the plan to bring them to 38.000 by the end of the year. According to the military commissar of Karelia, Colonel A. Artemyev, the total number of BARS comes to 100.000 Guests. At the end of 2021, the Southern Military District accounted for 38% of BARS reservists, which is another indicator that this District was preparing to attack Ukraine.

The work of the Municipal Military Commissariats for the selection of citizens in the active reserve is organized in two stages. First, an individual selection is made of citizens who have done their military service either as volunteers or as kontratniki; these, subsequently, are subjected to the evaluation of a medical commission and present the necessary documentation. During the second stage, personnel files are prepared and candidates are sent to military units. A feature of the organization of this work in the Southern Military District is the direct participation of representatives of military units in the selection of reservists at the first stage.

In accordance with the Federal Law n. 288-FZ of 30 December 2012, it is envisaged that contracts for permanence in the reserve of mobilization personnel are stipulated with 1st category reserve officers, marshals, sergeants and 1st and 2nd category soldiers. The age criteria are as follows: junior officers (second lieutenant, lieutenant, senior lieutenant) - up to 47 years old; senior officers (major, lieutenant colonel) - up to 52 years; colonels - up to 57 years; marshals, sergeants and soldiers of the reserve - up to 42 years.

Reservist training involves a commitment of 2-3 days a month and participation in weapon camps, usually for 20 days. During training sessions and weapon camps, reservists are instructed in the use of all types of weapons and in the driving of military vehicles, as well as participate in practical combat exercises related to their specialties.

After one year from enrollment in the reserve, a reservist who has a lower military rank than that required by the assignment carried out is qualified for a higher military rank.

The cash allowance of reservists is calculated on the basis of their rank and military position, for the time spent in the reserve, separately with reference to single days of training and to the annual training carried out during the fields of service. For the Ministry, in consideration of the financial difficulties encountered by the population nowadays, it is very important that those who adhere to the "active reserve" receive regular financial support from the State.

Colonel Konstantin Zapatotsky, head of the organizational mobilization department of the Southern Military District, explained to Zvezda magazine that, in the intentions of the Russian Defense Ministry, the reservist must receive the same protections provided for the military in service. From an economic point of view, the State must guarantee adequate payments to reservists.6 For example, an officer receives up to 10.000 rubles for three days of training, a non-commissioned officer - up to 5.000 rubles. An officer receives from 30 to 75.000 rubles for 30 days of training camp, a soldier - up to 25.000 rubles.

Upon conclusion of the first contract, the one-time payment to the officer will be made up to 66.000 rubles, to the sergeant and private up to 39.000 rubles, depending on the term of the contract. The agreement stipulates that the reservists keep their main job. Furthermore, in case of need, free medical care and insurance compensation are guaranteed. At the end of the first three-year contract and the signing of a new contract, reservists are entitled to a cash payment One-off equal to one month's salary ea bonus monthly payments for continuous service in the reserve equal to 10%. The indemnity increases to 20% for the same length of service from 5 to 10 years.

The BARS training program also provides financial compensation for the employers of fighters who join the reserve. When called upon to participate in training camps and military exercises, a reimbursement of the expenses incurred by the company to pay the average salary of the reservists who work there is provided. Three meals a day are provided during training sessions and military exercises. Reservists are provided with new and modern uniforms throughout their stay in the reserve.

In his post as commander of the Southern Military District, Army General Alexander Dvornikov praised the actions of the district's reservist unit that participated in an exercise held in 2021 at a military facility of the Baltic Fleet. He has established the task of providing for the participation of the commands of the units and departments of the territorial defense of the Southern Military District in all tactical exercises at the battalion and regiment level. Dvornikov said: “Equipping the country's Combat Forces reserve is a planned activity to improve the state's defense capability, and to implement this project, it is necessary to concentrate the efforts of all regional administrative authorities, as well as representatives of companies cossacks in the area of ​​​​responsibility of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation.”7

The interesting aspect of this statement is represented by the attention given to the Cossacks. In late 2022, Russian media reported with great emphasis on the dispatch of 150 Kuban area Cossacks to reinforce the 2.600 soldiers of the “Kuban Cossack Army” engaged in the Ukrainian area of ​​operations.8

But who are the “Kuban Cossacks”? These are Cossacks from the Kuban region of Russia. Most of the Kuban Cossacks are descendants of several large groups of Cossacks who were resettled in the northwestern regions of the Caucasus at the end of the 1860th century. In particular, the “Kuban Cossack Army” was formed in 1918 and existed until 1917. During the Russian Civil War, the Kuban Cossacks proclaimed the Kuban People's Republic and played a key role in the southern theater of the conflict. Between 1933 and XNUMX, the Kuban Cossacks suffered heavily under the Soviet policy aimed at undermining their autonomy and culture. Later, during the Second World War, the Cossacks fought both for the Red Army and against it, in the ranks of Wehrmacht German. The modern "Kuban Cossack Army" was re-established in 1990, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The 150 Kuban Cossacks were assigned to the BARS-16 and BARS-1 detachments. Before being sent to the theater of operations, they underwent two weeks of training in the Krasnodar territory and in the Rostov region to learn how to use their weapons and mines, as well as acquire notions of medical first aid, ability to carry out reconnaissance and to use military equipment and drones. Before departure, the Kuban Cossacks were greeted with a solemn ceremony, which was also attended by the Don Cossacks of the Myasnikovsky district, to honor their compatriots and fellow soldiers.9 The press organs underlined how the Kuban Cossacks had already distinguished themselves in battle, during the clashes that took place in Krasny Liman, in the People's Republic of Donetsk, preventing the predominant Ukrainian forces from entering the city.10

Next to the BARS 1 detachments and Kuban BARS-16 detachments were created, Orel (Eagle) BARS-9, Rurik BARS-13 and Grom (Thunder) BARS-20. Among these, BARS-13 is one of the youngest units involved in the conflict. Nonetheless, with about 500 men from all over the Russian territory, according to the Russian press it is the most experienced unit, trained to carry out special reconnaissance and attack enemy fortifications.11

The founder and commander of the BARS-13 unit is Sergey Fomchenkov ("Fomich"), a character moved by a strong anti-Western sentiment who sinks his rhetoric into the thought advocated by the writer and intellectual Eduard Limonov: “I was already a patriot of Russia and an 'anti-Western' then, when it wasn't as fashionable as it is now. Limonov has been saying absolutely right things since the late 80s, urging everyone to get rid of the euphoria of perestroika and the love of our elite for the West with its supposed values.” 12 The influence of Limonov's thought on Russian war fiction and propaganda is well known.13

Sergei Fomchenkov told the channel Russia 1 how he came up with the idea to create this detachment. The BARS-13 battalion commander said he first went to Donbass in 2014 as a volunteer, where he spent eight years. When the "special military operation" began, as having considerable military experience, he managed to get him to be entrusted with forming a battalion and commanding it.14

He then proposed joining the unit in formation under him on a voluntary basis. Initially, those who knew him personally or who had heard of him joined him, and among the first members of the detachment were mostly experienced people. Some of the volunteers, however, do not have the experience and skills necessary to operate in a context of high intensity warfare such as that of Ukraine. According to Sergey Fomchenkov, this is not a problem because, while aware of being able to meet death, “newcomers burn with a sincere desire to defend their homeland and learn quickly from older comrades.”15

Let's see what the operational path of this unit is in the narrative of Russian propaganda:

On May 12, 2022, the "Russian Legion" formed in the Rostov Region of Russia arrived in the Kharkov Region of Ukraine and was immediately engaged in fierce battles in the Izyum direction. In October 2022, reinforcements from the most experienced mobilized "kuzmichi" began to arrive in the battalion, to form mainly new mortar crews in this unit. In the fall of 2022, military correspondents began to call the "Russian Legion" - "Barsy Kremenny forests", for the bold and courageous actions of the "barsiks" in the forests near the village of Kremennaya on the Svatovsky route.16

All this heroism comes at a price, as is normal in a war. As an example, I cite the commander of the BARS-9 detachment, Rustam Ziganshin. This soldier, from Bashkiria, was 36 years old when he was killed on August 27, 2022, near the village of Vladimirovka (oblast' of Donetsk).17

This quote is intended as a starting point for reflection on the sentiment that drives the BARS volunteers to join the "Russian cause", moved by the effectiveness of the Kremlin's propaganda which cleverly leverages the patriotic sentiment of these men. And patriotic sentiment, from a military point of view, is always noble. Less noble are the reasons and the technical-tactical procedures adopted by Moscow which, in combat on the ground, do not show any progress with respect to the conception of the mass massacre of one's own forces, a legacy of the war doctrines of the times of the czars and, subsequently, of the doctrine Soviet military.

Already Frederick II of Prussia, during the Seven Years' War (1756 - 1763) had revealed the tenacity of Russian soldiers - illiterate serfs, but religiously loyal to the Tsar - in combat.18 Beyond devotion to leader supreme, the rooted principle that sees thousands of soldiers immolated as sacrificial victims rather than from a doctrinal criterion derives substantially from technical-tactical procedures characterized by poor maneuvering ability, almost no initiative and, therefore, use of troops as a "mass" to be committed in a war of attrition.

The current volunteers, unlike their Ukrainian antagonists, should reflect that they are "cannon fodder" without a plausible reason.

General Patton's statement “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country"19 should be the introductory aphorism of every military manual. Especially the Russian ones.

1Otryad Spetsial'nogo Naznacheniya (Detachment for Special Assignments).

2 N. Cristadoro, Spetsnaz and Paramilitary Corps of the Russian Security Services, Il Maglio Editions, 2018.

3 N. Cristadoro, Putin mobilizes a people in demobilization, Limes “The Shadow of the Bomb”, n. 9/22.

5 V. Sosnicki, БАРС: военная служба на полставки (BARS: part-time military service), Zvezda Weekly, 07/09/2021.

6 V. Sosnicki, ibid.

7 V. Sosnicki, ibid.

8150 кубанских казаков пополнят отряды БАРС-16 и БАРС-1 (150 Kuban Cossacks will join the BARS-16 and BARS-1 detachments), Smotrim, 30/10/2022.

9Бойцов БАРС-16 отряда "Кубань" торжественно проводили на Донбасс (BARS-16 fighters of the "Kuban" detachment were solemnly escorted to Donbass), Krasnodar Media, 06/10/2022.


11 S. Nakhimov, «Русский легион» БАРС-13: от Интербригады до «бойцов кременных лесов» ("Russian Legion" BARS-13: from the International Brigade to the "Flint Forest Fighters"), AmalNews, 16/11/2022.

12 A. Shershneva, Создатель и глава БАРС-13 комбат Сергей Фомченков: С фронтов СВО мы без Победы не уйдём (Creator and chief of the commander of the BARSremo battalion-13 Sergeiv Fomremo no front), Arguments, 29/11/2022.

13 N. Cristadoro – M. Deon, Military philosophy in Russian neo-imperialism, Defense Analysis, 09/04/2019.

14 Как Сергей Фомченков создал добровольческий батальон БАРС-13 (How Sergei Fomchenkov created the volunteer battalion BARS-13),, 28/11/2022.


16 S. Nakhimov, op. cit.

17 C. Ivanova, На Украине погиб командир добровольческого отряда «БАРС-9» из Башкирии (In Ukraine, the commander of the "BARS-9" volunteer detachment from Bashkiria died), Prufy, 19/11/2022. otryada_bars_9_iz_bashkirii/.

18 S. Andolenko, History of the Russian Army. from Peter the Great to the Red Army, Odoya Publishing House, Bologna, 2013.

19 Sentence from the "Speech" given to the 6th Armored Division on May 31, 1944. Reported in BL Gist, Eloquently speakingXlibris Corporation, 2010.

Photo: БАРС 2021