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Ukraine reveals how Russian pilot defected with Mi-8 helicopter

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Ukrainian military officials have revealed details of how the pilot of a Russian Mi-8 helicopter allegedly defected with unsuspecting crew members on board.

Kyrylo Budanov, Kyiv’s defense intelligence chief, explained that more details of the reported defection would be revealed in the Russian pilots shot down documentary which will be broadcast on Sunday in Ukraine.

Budanov told Ukrainian media Pravda that an agreement had been reached after promising to get the pilot’s family out of Russia.

A Russian military Mi-8 helicopter patrols oil fields near the town of al-Qahtaniyah in Syria’s Hasakeh province near the Turkish border on February 4, 2021. A Russian pilot reportedly managed to defect without his crew realize where he was. .
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He added to the media: “We were able to find the right approach for the pilot, move his whole family unnoticed and finally create conditions in which he was able to move this plane with the crew, without them knowing what was going on. .

“After realizing where they landed, they tried to run away. Unfortunately, they were killed. It would be better if we could (capture) them alive, but that’s how it is.”

Pravda reported that Artem Shevchenko, the creator of the documentary series Ukrainian military intelligencesaid the operation was similar to the Israeli Mossad’s 1996 Operation Diamond, where an Iraqi pilot was persuaded to steal the most advanced MIG-21n fighter of the time.

News week was unable to verify whether the defection took place, as presented by Budanov and Ukrainian military officials.

The harrowing war took a toll on the Russian military and led Moscow to consider unorthodox options, according to an assessment by British officials.

According to the UK Ministry of Defence, Russia is “appealing to citizens of neighboring countries with recruitment announcements to fight in Ukraine”.

The former Soviet countries that have been the subject of this appeal since June this year would be Armenia and Kazakhstan.

The 18-month-long conflict has caused heavy casualties on both sides, but Russian officials have been reluctant to launch a large-scale mobilization to boost troop numbers.

In mid-September last year, the Kremlin said a partial mobilization had resulted in the call-up of around 300,000 reservists, but the Kremlin has not launched a similar conscription campaign since then.

The recent recruitment campaign in neighboring countries has appealed to ethnic Russians, with adverts offering $5,000 down payment and salaries starting at just under $2,000, the UK Ministry of Defense added.

The Kremlin has sought to maintain a distance between the Russian population and the “special military operation” it has been carrying out in Ukraine since February 2022.

News week contacted Ukrainian military officials for comment via email.

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