Two Mi-8 military transport helicopters crashed in the Donets region, killing all six personnel on board and destroying both aircraft. While the cause of the crash was yet undetermined by officials, a criminal investigation has been opened based on reports of a Russian fighter flying in the area.

The incident occurred on Tuesday, Aug. 29, during “combat operations” over Russian-occupied territory near Bakhmut.

A spokesperson for the 18th Separate Brigade of Army Aviation, Yevgeny Rakita said all servicemembers aboard were of officer rank. One individual is from the Poltava region; the rest are from other regions of Ukraine.

The AFU’s Eastern group press service head, Ilya Yevlash said the tragedy occurred in the Kramatorsk district of the Donetsk region but the cause is still to be determined.

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Officials reported that at the time of the incident, a Russian Su-35 fighter was airborne in the vicinity and the Ukrainian helicopters had landed to avoid being shot down by air-to-air ordnance, in accordance with standard procedures.

Yevlash confirmed the other reports: “Yes, there was an aircraft crash involving two Mі-8 helicopters… on a combat mission. While they were performing their mission, there was an enemy Su-35 fighter airborne in the area.”

He also said that the number of victims needed to be clarified.

Previously, the head of the press service of the 18th Aviation Brigade had already reported that there were six of them, said Yevlash, indicating some doubt.

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Now the State Bureau of Investigations (DBR) is working with military aviation experts to establish the details and circumstances of the incident. The DBR documents investigations of all incidents that may involve Russian crimes of aggression.

A farewell to the deceased will be held in Poltava on Friday, Sept. 1.

The service member from the Poltava region will be buried there, while the remains of the others will be taken to their own hometown regions.

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Though government authorities revealed the service members were all of officer rank, their names and other identifying details were withheld for security reasons.

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