Who’s assembling “Shahed 136” in Russian Federation?

Part 1

Ukrainian hackers from the Cyber Resistance team, in cooperation with the international intelligence community InformNapalm, conducted a multi-level CYBINT operation, during which they obtained more than 100 GB of information and classified data of the Russian limited liability company (LLC) Albatros. This data includes thousands of pages of internal documentation, technical data and drawings of various types of Albatros UAVs. Materials confirming ways to circumvent sanctions by the Russian Federation. And documents related to the production of Shahed 136 kamikaze drones, also known in the public space as Geranium-2. Most of these materials have been used for several months in the interests of the Ukrainian defense forces and are not subject to disclosure. Today we are publishing the first part of the series. This part can be considered an introduction to the topic of researching the documents of ALBATROS LLC. To make the connections clearer to readers, this publication includes related links and contexts that have also been made public earlier in the course of other journalistic investigations.

On April 2, 2024, the Ukrainian Defense Forces launched a kamikaze drone strike on the territory of the so-called Alabuga Special Economic Zone, located in the municipal district of Yelabuga, Republic of Tatarstan, a subject of the Russian Federation. The target of the attack was a plant in Yelabuga, where the Russians assemble Iranian “Shahed 136” UAVs, under the Russian label “Geranium-2”, which are periodically used to attack civilian infrastructure in Ukraine. After the attack, the Russians maximized the use of their agents of influence in the international arena to try to shift the focus of the event. Thus, on April 3, during a briefing, UN Secretary-General’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric, in response to a journalist’s manipulative question about the attack on facilities in Tatarstan, commented on it as an attack on “civilian infrastructure.”

Based on the documents obtained during CYBINT operation, we will show that not only are kamikaze drones produced in a separate workshop in Yelabuga, but the entire territory of the special economic zone is a big military facility that is a legitimate military target for destruction and needs more efficient sanctions.


The hackers obtained more than 100 GB of the company’s internal data by accessing the personal data of Albatross LLC’s CEO, Alexei Florov. Albatros LLC has been producing drones since 2017 and was located in the Moscow region for the first years of its existence. However, in 2023, the company became a resident of Alabuga. We will describe why and how agricultural drones became military drones, what Western parts are used in the assembly of UAVs, and why Kaspersky Corporation has not yet been sanctioned in the next parts of the investigation. For now, let’s focus on the Albatross LLC itself.

In December 2023, the U.S. Department of Commerce imposed export restrictions on 28 companies from Russia. Two of them are residents of the Alabuga SEZ. These are Albatros LLC, which manufactures drones, and Dolphin Alabuga, which produces motor boats. In January 2023, RBC Tatarstan published the news that Alabuga would produce drones and motor boats. The publication mentioned both Albatros LLC and Dolphin Alabuga LLC. Moreover, Florov was named in this publication as a “representative of Dolphin Alabuga”.

However, other companies can still be found on the US sanctions list:

As follows from Florov’s correspondence, all these companies are directly or indirectly related to him. For example, he is the director of Geomir and the head of ALB.AERO, a member of GeomirAgro. And Albatros has joint projects with Assistagro. Why are Americans so interested in Albatros and its affiliates? Because there is reason to believe that it is at Albatross’s production base in Alabuga that Russians assemble Shaheds.

Military-Industrial Complex “ALABUGA”

Before the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Alabuga Special Economic Zone was quite attractive for domestic and foreign investment. The absence of land, real estate, and transportation taxes in the zone and very low-income tax rates led to rapid business development there. As of 2016, 74% of all foreign investment in Tatarstan was in Alabuga.

With the invasion and the imposition of stronger sanctions against Russia, many foreign companies have begun to wind down their operations in this economic zone. How to fill the empty premises and workshops in a country that is on a war footing is a rhetorical question. The Special Economic Zone has become a military-industrial complex. Alabuga is involved in the mobilization task, and the authorities in Yelabuga are discussing with the heads of local enterprises how to hold Putin’s election.

Information about Russia’s plans to produce Iranian-made military drones on its territory appeared in the fall of 2022, as reported by The Washington Post. In June 2023, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby reported US intelligence data that Tehran was supplying Russia with equipment for a plant for the joint production of kamikaze drones. At the time, the media stated that the plant was being built on the territory of the Alabuga Special Economic Zone, and the White House released a photo of the alleged location of the workshops where production takes place.

In August 2023, The Washington Post published another story on this topic, based on leaked Russian engineering documents and official correspondence. Based on these data, investigative journalists concluded that Alabuga plans to produce 6,000 drones by the summer of 2025. To achieve this goal, Russian engineers need to improve outdated Iranian technologies, increase production capacity, and improve quality control.

Thanks to the leak, it became clear that the Russians used coded names in their correspondence and other documents: the drones were “boats” (or “motor boats”), and their explosives were “bumpers”. The leak also made it clear that the Shahed-136 UAVs, which are labeled as Geranium-2 in Russia, are referred to in the documents as Dolphin 632 motorboats.

The documents obtained by Cyber Resistance confirm the previously published data. For example, in March 2024, the First Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Andrey Belousov, who also serves as the chairman of the Government Commission for the Development of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, was scheduled to visit Alabuga.

As it becomes clear from the documents that accompanied the preparation of this visit, back in June 2023, Putin identified 10 regions of the Russian Federation where research and production centers for unmanned aircraft systems were to be established as a priority. This year, funding has been allocated to three regions, and Alabuga wants to be one of them, along with the cities of Samara and Tomsk. The draft letter to Bilousov specifically notes that the Deputy Prime Minister will be shown “the existing Albatross and Dolphin production facilities.”

It is rather strange to show the production of Dolphin motor boats to a person who is the chairman of the UAV development commission. However, if these are not boats but chessboards, then the questions disappear. Let’s take a look at the list of Alabuga’s facilities that were planned to be shown to Bilousov.

The list shows the main facilities of Alabuga. The name of the facility, its production capacity per year, and a description of what kind of facility it is, what it does, and its state of readiness are given. This document shows the planned capacity of Albatross, which is 1000 UAVs per year. In addition to drones, the company produces tools and instruments for measuring, testing, and navigation.

It also shows which enterprises are already operating and which are still under construction. For example, the Yakovlev Design Bureau, which is located in the Synergy 13.2 building, is designed for research and development work in the field of aircraft, engines, electronic boards, and communications. The center was launched in December 2023. Another operating enterprise is the Alabuga Polytech educational center. As you can see, the planned capacity of this center is 10,000 students per year.

Two projects are still at the commissioning stage:

  • a project for the production of internal combustion engines (located in the Synergy 13.1 building with a planned capacity of 40,000 units per year);
  • a project for the production of electronic components (Synergy 8.1 building) with a planned capacity of 160,000 units per year.

But the most interesting thing for us is in the second paragraph of this table.

Dolphin project (Synergy 8.2 building). This mysterious item does not contain a note, and the specifications only indicate the production area (40,000 square meters) and the vague phrase “composite, assembly and testing production of products.” What kind of products? It is not known. However, the planned number of these “products” is 10,000 units per year.

What kind of production is this? What is this Dolphin project for 10,000 units per year?  Let’s recall once again the leak of data on Dolphin 632 motor boats, where it was stated that after the transfer of technology from Iran to Russia, it is planned to scale up production to 10 thousand units per year.

Is it a coincidence? We don’t think so. Probably, we have the location of the Shahed-136/Geranium-2 UAV production confirmed by the Russians.

As you can see, this table also helps to understand the location of the enterprises. The Dolphin project is located in the Synergy 8.2 building.  The American Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) monitors Russian Shahed production and in a September update on the progress of drone production, showed satellite images of the same workshops that were published last summer by the White House.

As you can see, the building on the left is designated as 8.2, and the building on the right is designated as 8.1. The Albatross website states that their main address is 423601 Republic of Tatarstan, urban settlement of Elabuga, territory of the SEZ “Alabuga”, Sh-1 St., 8/1. As confirmed by the materials of the Center for Investigative Journalism, the building on the right is Synergy 8.1, where Albatrosses are assembled. Accordingly, the hull on the left, Synergy 8.2, is the Dolphin project, which produces motor boats and, de facto, shakedowns.

Motorboat Production Support Department

The location of the Shakheed production has been established and confirmed by direct Russian documents. Now let’s look at those involved in the production. Two letters from the data set reveal who exactly is working not only on the creation of drones in Yelabuga, but also on establishing cooperation with Iran in this area.

The first letter contains a request from Ramis Sakhabutdinov, a senior security and access control specialist at the Alabuga SEZ FTZ JSC. He asks to quickly conduct a survey of a number of employees because he has received a request from “superior colleagues.” All the employees who are to fill out the questionnaires are allegedly involved in the production of “motor boats”. Notably, the questionnaire to be filled out by the employees includes information on contact numbers used by the motorboat manufacturers, on the availability of a foreign passport and travel abroad since 2014, as well as information on relatives and the degree of kinship. Obviously, motorboat manufacturers are closely monitored by the security service.

A closer look at the biographies of the people whose names and positions are listed removes any doubt that the “motor boats” are actually flying. As for Florov, it has already been written – he is the ideological inspirer and responsible for business contacts and the business model of the Albatross UAV manufacturing company.

Let’s consider the “chief designer of motorboat production” Konstantin Spiridonov. In our opinion, the first of the dates indicated in the table is the moment of official employment of the person in Albatross, the second is the date of birth. Spiridonov, like Florov, was one of the first to be hired – on January 27, 2023. This is not surprising, since Spiridonov also works at Albatross, and he is the leader of the production unit or the “brains” of the company. In fact, that’s what he says in his signature on his commercial email.

If we go into other details, he has a personal email address that is quite specific for a “motorboat designer”: lyotchik-istrebitel@yandex.ru. “Fighter pilot” or “sniper pilot” are nicknames that Spiridonov often uses to accompany his online activities. In particular, he uses these nicknames in the id of his personal Bkontakte page or as a pseudo-developer of modifications for the ARMA 3 game (one of Spiridonov’s hobbies). Although the Bkontakte page is closed, there is access to old photos on it. All of them indicate that Spiridonov’s interests are not in the “maritime” field.

His education is also specialized for an aircraft designer. Finally, back in 2020, Spiridonov said in an interview that his main job is to design Albatross drones, not fashion for computer games, for example.

The key role played by Florov and Spiridonov in the development of unmanned aviation in Yelabuga is confirmed by other documents. Prior to moving to the SEZ in early 2023, the company submitted a business plan (which included Albatros’ production facilities) to the economic zone’s management. The documents contain a separate clause on managers and their responsibilities. For example, Florov is responsible for record keeping and secrecy. Spiridonov is responsible for technological development and “invention”.

And yet, drone production at Alabuga is not just about Albatross. The entire economic zone is involved, including the Alabuga Polytech vocational school located on its territory. This is confirmed by the biography of Yevgeny Makhnutin, the head of one of the departments in the Management group of the Motor Boat Production Department. Makhnutin is a recruiter who joined Alabuga in November 2022. He is looking for the right personnel not only for the production of UAVs, but also for other residents of the special economic zone in general. Previously, Makhnutin traveled across Russia and told university students about the benefits of employment, urging them to move to Yelabuga, where life will be better and more fun.

At the time, students were tempted by jobs with Western companies that had production facilities in the SEZ and recognition from the Financial Times. Indirect evidence suggests that Makhnutin is also involved in the recruitment of vocational school students. This is related to a story that happened at the school in late March 2023. One of the students allegedly committed suicide in the dormitory. “Allegedly” because a year later, the Russian investigation has not reached a final conclusion, although one of the proceedings was opened under the article on “driving to suicide.” The relatives of the deceased began to talk in the press about the living and educational conditions in Yelabuga, which can hardly be called focused on the comprehensive development of young people.

Yevgeny Makhnutin came to defend the honor of the school under this post. His commentary shows that he has serious knowledge of the “events for applicants” during the admission process.

Are the vocational school students themselves working on the “motor boats” that are attacking Ukraine?

This has been argued in investigations by other publications. When reviewing the Cyber Resistance document about the “motorboat project managers,” the name of Viktor Pluhatyrev, who was born on November 10, 2006, caught our attention. If the date is correct, then Pluhatyrev should be less than 18 years old now. This does not prevent him from holding the position of “specialist of the motorboat production support department”.

During the preparation of this text, it was not possible to obtain documents that conclusively prove Pluhatyrev’s studies at Alabuga Polytechnic. But there was definitely a channel on the telegram network with this description.

Contacts with Iran

The second document from the array, which testifies to the development of drones in Yelabuga based on the Iranian model, is a letter demanding that a number of employees submit business trip reports for 2023.

At least some of the people on this list went on business trips to Tehran. What they did in the Iranian capital is allegedly unknown. However, it is safe to assume that people with knowledge of languages, mechanical engineering, drones, and military specialists were selected for business trips.

It seems that this is how Oleksandr Datsyuk, whose resume can be easily found on the Internet, was found. Who knows, maybe it was his resume that got him hired. Datsyuk is one of the few representatives of the older group among the project participants, an expert in the “Persian” language and a former “UN peacekeeper.”

In contrast to the Muscovite Datsyuk, the Dagestan-born Roman Avarsky is a member of the younger generation, but he is a graduate of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) and seems to know Farsi as well. This is evidenced by his comments on Vkontakte, where he posts under the pseudonym “Roman Verum.”

References to Avarsky can also be found on the websites of the Federal Scientific Center for Rice (Krasnodar) and the Institute of Additional Professional Education (Stavropol). Both centers are working on the implementation of agrodrones.

See our infographic for a full list of visitors to Iran.


It is already clear from the above facts that the Albatross company is actively involved in the motorboat project. It is likely that the Russian authorities have chosen this team as the basis for the implementation of Iranian technological processes. Currently, only two Alabuga companies, Albatross and Dolphin Alabuga, are under US sanctions. Alabuga SEZ FTZ, Alabuga Development, Alabuga Exim, and Alabuga Machinery are still not under sanctions. Now, Alabuga is building workshops for the production of its own internal combustion engines and electronic components. This means that in a few months Russia will be able to produce its own turnkey kamikaze drones. No “parallel imports”, no purchases of engines and chips abroad.

At the same time, the content of the documents leads to an unpleasant conclusion. Russia is rapidly establishing its own production of attack UAVs. The Iranian Shahed-136 UAVs have long been a headache for the Ukrainian Defense Forces and civilians. However, these were Iranian deliveries that Russia had to wait for quite a long time. It’s also possible for Iran to use some of this drones to attack Israel, because of long cooperation between Russia and Iran.

by InformNapalm 

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