“Downed Pilots of Russia” is a new action-adventure spy film that gives a firsthand account of a defecting pilot who seized control of a Russian armored combat Mi-8 helicopter and brought it safely to an airbase in the Kharkiv region, into the hands of awaiting Ukrainian military intelligence.
It may seem like fiction but the film is actually a documentary released by the Main Directorate of Intelligence (HUR) of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense that provides an inside look into several special operations by Ukrainian intelligence, shedding light on that daring mission in August.
Initial reports of this extraordinary operation surfaced on Wednesday, Aug. 23, with Russian propaganda channels initially alleging that the helicopter crew had become disoriented and mistakenly landed at the Ukrainian airbase.
Some even went so far as to suggest that the crew had come under attack by the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU), leading to aircraft damage and potential casualties.
However, the story took an unexpected turn later in the day when Andriy Yusov, spokesperson for the HUR, speaking during the TV marathon, revealed that this incident was not a mishap but the culmination of a meticulously planned six-month special operation executed by his department.
The film “Downed Pilots of Russia” indicates that this special operation, codenamed “Titmouse,” took place on Aug. 9. According to the HUR, the operation not only involved capturing the Mi-8 helicopter but also acquiring valuable documentation and secret technical equipment.
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Viewers are introduced to the pilot who executed the daring mission. He is identified as 28-year-old Captain Maxim Kuzminov, a pilot from the 319th Separate Helicopter Regiment of Russian Army Aviation.
“I contacted representatives of the intelligence service of Ukraine,” Kuzminov said. “I explained my situation to them. I was offered such an option that guarantees security, new documents, and monetary compensation. We discussed all these details and started planning my flight.”
The pilot said his motive was opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying he didn’t want to be a part of it.
“The truth is, it’s right here. That there are no fascists, no Nazis here,” he said. “And I am very sorry for what is happening now. Murders, tears, blood. People just kill each other, that’s all. That’s the only thing I don’t understand, the only thing I didn’t want. What is happening now is simply a genocide of the Ukrainian people.
“I don’t want to be an accomplice of Russian crimes... When Ukraine wins, it’s only a matter of time,” Kuzimov added.
According to the documentary, Ukrainian military intelligence facilitated a safe corridor for the helicopter’s flight. However, the pilot sustained injuries during the capture. Two other crew members chose “not to surrender and lost their lives upon landing.”
“I realized that I was near the border, I shared my location [with Ukrainian special services]. I said let’s try, I’m not far away... I flew at an extremely low altitude in radio-silent mode... Probably, for three or four days, no one [among the Russian counterparts] understood what had happened to me. I flew over successfully and landed,” the pilot said about the operation.
Kuzminov called upon his fellow Russian pilots to consider a similar path, promising that they “will not regret it at all.”
The filmmakers compare Operation “Titmouse” with the legendary Operation “Diamond” conducted by the Israeli Mossad in 1966. Then, having recruited an Iraqi pilot, Israel managed to steal the most modern (at that time) Soviet MIG-21 fighter.
The Ukrainian Operation “Titmouse” became the first in this war when the Ukrainian special services managed to capture a new Russian aircraft in combat condition, as well as to lure a profile young Russian pilot to their side.
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