Staff at the Ukrainian Poltava military airbase were surprised on the morning of Wednesday, Aug. 23 when a Russian Mi-8 AMTSH (NATO: Hip) armored combat helicopter, landed at the airfield.

Initial reports on Russian propaganda channels claimed the crew had become disoriented and landed at the base in error.

Some went as far to suggest that the crew had been attacked by the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU), the aircraft damaged and the crew killed or wounded. 

While the full story was not yet known, Ukrainian social media, led by the journalist Yuriy Butusov on the Obozrevatel Telegram channel, took great delight in flagging it as “the first conscious surrender of such equipment by the Russian Federation.”

He pointed out that the airfield is approximately 300 kilometers from the front line and, flying at low altitude, landmarks must have been visible and the distance flown obvious.

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Butusov went on to say that the story promised to become legendary as the helicopter was recovered completely intact, and would be used to reinforce the AFU following a detailed study of its equipment.

“Did the helicopter crew decide to join the ranks of the Russian Freedom Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps?” he asked. 

In the afternoon the story took on an even more startling turn when the spokesman for Ukraine’s Directorate of Military Intelligence (HUR), Andriy Yusov announced on the 1+1 TV channel that this was as the result of a six-month planned special operation conducted by his department.

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Dozens of teachers and professors have been fighting on the front lines and one-fifth of the sector’s facilities have been damaged or destroyed by Russian bombardments.

For obvious reasons, full details of the operation were being held closely by the HUR but what is known is nevertheless astonishing and a triumph for Budanov’s team.

It seems that the pilot was the only one of the three who was aware what was happening.

According to Yusov the HUR had arranged for the pilot's family to be taken out of Russia and brought to Ukraine some time ago in preparation for his defection. 

 

The aircraft was, supposedly, transporting spare parts for Russian Su-27 and Su-30 (NATO: Flanker) multi-role fighters between two Russian air bases, a task which enabled the pilot to camouflage the duration of the flight.

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 On arrival at Poltava the aircraft was secured by Ukrainian forces during which it seems the other two crew members were unwilling to surrender and as a result were – in the words of the HRU – “eliminated.” 

The directorate’s closing comment was that the Mi-8 along with the fighters’ spare parts would remain in Ukraine. 

At the time of publishing no further details, including the name of the pilot, have been released.

Elsewhere, HUR are also involved in the collection of intercepted phones calls which have provided numerous insights into the situation faced by Russians over the last few months, particularly soldiers.

Some of the more interesting ones include:

  • ‘Putin Has Never Been Worse’ – Some Russians Are (Privately) Talking About an Uprising
  • ‘We’ll Tear You Apart’ – Ukrainian Soldiers Are Trolling Russian Commanders on Telegram ‘
  • Trucks Full of Corpses’ – Intercepted Phone Call Suggests Massive Wagner Losses
  • ‘War Until 2026’ - Russian Soldier Claims He’s Been Told To Expect 3 More Years of Fighting
  • 'We'll Dismember Him' – Russian Soldier and Wife Gleefully Chat About Torturing ‘Saboteur’
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