First trophy: how Russian crew passed Mi-8 to Ukrainian intelligence

First trophy: how Russian crew passed Mi-8 to Ukrainian intelligence

Саня Козацький Саня Козацький
Air Force of Russia Aviation Helicopters Neighbors Occupants elimination Russia Russian Armed Forces War with Russia Ми-8/17/171 Україна

Ukrainian intelligence lured the crew of a Russian military Mi-8 helicopter to the territory of Ukraine.

The relocation and capture of a helicopter from the Russian invasion army was part of a special operation of the Defense Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense.

It is worth noting that that was the first officially confirmed successful Ukrainian operation.

The Head of Defense Intelligence called this operation one of the best that the department has conducted in the history of Ukraine.

Russian versions: from denial to suspicion

On the morning of August 23, 2023, Russian propagandist Ilya Tumanov, who manages the theme-based aviation channel Fighterbomber, said that the crew of the Mi-8 “a few weeks ago” made a mistaken landing on the Ukrainian “Poltava airfield” (the city in Central Ukraine.) Later, he gave the name of another settlement: Poltava village in the Kharkiv region, where there is no airfield.

He put forward the version that the crew of the military transport helicopter “lost orientation” and crossed the Russian-Ukrainian border in the East.

The propagandist suggested that the cause of the disorientation of the crew could be a failure of the onboard navigation system or a “fake radio message” by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

In his Telegram post, Tumanov claimed that the Russian crew visually discovered the airfield and went to land. After landing, the Ukrainian military allegedly opened fire on a helicopter, eliminating two crew members and wounding the commander.

He also saw in the published photos a burned tail beam near the ramp on the starboard side, a hole in the cockpit glass, and allegedly bullet holes on the fuselage. It is worth noting that the soaked tail rotor pylon can be due to the constant influence of exhaust gases from the engine.

In addition, he said that the seal “Erasure” was torn down. The seal was designed to destroy passwords and codes of the IFF system and communication systems.

It’s important to note that the post of the Russian propagandist was very similar to an attempt to be ahead and to come up with a story that denies a possible involvement of a Russian pilot in betraying and surrendering to the Ukrainian side.

Another profile propaganda source, Helicopterpilot, reported that the Russian Mi-8 disappeared on August 9. The flight route passed far from Ukrainian territory. According to this source, the helicopter allegedly landed “near the village of Ohirtseve near Vovchansk.”

He claims that the crew lost orientation by thinking that it was Russian territory that they were landing on to restore orientation. However, it was already a territory controlled by Ukraine. The propagandist says that in mid-August it turned out that one of the two crew members died. However, it is not known what happened to the helicopter.

The Helicopterpilot said the “bullet hole” allegedly seen by Tumanov in the glass of the side window of the cockpit was a defect in the armor plate behind it.

He stated that Russian border guards saw the Mi-8 flight heading towards Ukraine. Allegedly, according to the helicopter commander’s colleagues, he did not hide the fact that he had relatives or his unwillingness to fly over Ukraine’s territory.

The propagandist wrote that he cannot believe that the Russian crew could switch to the Ukrainian side and steal a helicopter. And he hopes it happened by accident.

Ukrainian Intelligence reports

However, later it became known that it was a special operation of the Defense Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine that lured the crew of a Russian Mi-8AMTSh military helicopter together with the crew to the territory of Ukraine.

Defense Intelligence sources of the Ukrayinska Pravda website reported that the special operation lasted more than six months. Ukrainian intelligence officers managed to convince the Russian pilot to surrender to the Ukrainian side and fly by helicopter to the territory of Ukraine.

As a result, the Defense Intelligence managed to capture the Mi-8 helicopter along with the crew, military equipment, and spare parts that it used to transport for the Russian army.

Later, the fact of this operation was confirmed by Kyrylo Budanov, Chief of Ukrainian Defense Intelligence, in his interview with RFE/RL. He also revealed some details of the successful operation.

According to him, the intelligence was able to find the right approach for the Russian pilot and create conditions to quietly withdraw his family from the territory of the Russian Federation. He did not give the exact date when this happened.

The helicopter departed from the Russian airbase to perform the task of transporting spare parts for aircraft to another Russian military airfield. After that, it changed course, crossed the interstate border, and landed in the Kharkiv region.

There were two other crew members, along with the pilot, in the Mi-8 who were eliminated during the escape attempt.

“They were able to find the right approach to the person, were able to create conditions to take out the whole family unnoticed, and eventually create such conditions that he could overtake this aircraft with a crew who did not know what was happening.

When they realized where they had sat, they tried to escape. Unfortunately, they were eliminated, I would like to (take them) alive, but we have what we have,” Budanov said.

As a result of this special operation, the crew and the helicopter itself remained in Ukraine, along with aviation spare parts and equipment.

Judging by the published images, the captured helicopter was the Mi-8 AMTSh (RF-04428) “62 red”. It was part of the 2nd Helicopter Squadron of the 337th Separate Helicopter Regiment (military unit 12739) of the Russian Air Force, based at the Tolmachevo airport.

It is noteworthy that in old photos, it’s seen that units for launching unguided aircraft missiles were installed on such helicopters. This may indicate that this Mi-8 could take part in hostilities against Ukraine. Now, in fresh photos made in August 2023, there is no such weapons installed; presumably, recently, this helicopter was used just as a transport.

According to intelligence, spare parts for Su-type fighters were found in the cargo compartment of a Russian helicopter.

In addition, a DMR-400Т device was discovered, which is designed to work with generators and starter generators with a DC voltage of 28,5V and power up to 12 kW.

According to the Chief of Ukranian Defense Intelligence, the Russian Mi-8 helicopter is currently in Kyiv. Budanov added that it will be possible to see the aircraft and communicate with its pilot later.

This may happen after the publication of the “official film” on the anniversary of the creation of the Ukrainian military intelligence in September 2023.

“The pilot feels great, he’s doing well. He has two options, but he tends to stay in Ukraine,” added Kyrylo Budanov, while he did not name the motivation of the Russian pilot.

Other attempts to lure Russian pilots

Such attempts to lure Russian pilots and equipment to Ukraine have been made before but failed. At least no such cases have been officially reported.

Back in July 2022, the Russian Federation announced a “success” in disrupting the special operation of Ukraine to hijack a Russian combat aircraft.

Then it was stated that the FSB was allegedly able to prevent the hijacking of the Su-34 bomber. According to the Russian side, the pilot was offered $1 million and life in the European Union (EU), but the pilot of the Russian Air Force immediately went to cooperate with Russian counterintelligence and began a double game with Ukrainian special services.

According to Hristo Grozev, Bellingcat journalist, there was indeed an attempt to carry out such an operation. But neither the Secret Services of Ukraine, nor the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine were involved in it.

The journalist said that this was an initiative of former military operatives whom Bellingcat met during the investigation of the case of the “Wagner PMC.” At the same time, according to Grozev, Ukrainians immediately realized that the FSB had intervened in the case due to a number of unprofessional actions by Russian operatives.

In particular, they forced the pilot to make strange demands. For example, to take abroad not a wife, but a “mistress,” which was easy to identify as a person associated with the FSB. A Russian military pilot also asked to give her a new Russian passport with the argument that the old one was “torn by [her] ex-boyfriend.”

One of the counterintelligence officers of the FSB of the Russian Federation was Nikita Bukhtatov, who supervised military pilots. He ran an Instagram page under his real name in which he published photos of military aircraft of the Russian Air Force.

In particular, on his Instagram page, the Russian counterintelligence officer posted photos from a military airfield with an Il-76 aircraft and a Mi-8 helicopter. At the same time, amid these helicopters, he placed his own car with a car number. It also shows the level of professionalism of individual representatives of the Russian special services.

Later, the Russians informed that they had allegedly managed to obtain some secret data about how the Ukrainian air defense system was organized. They also said they used this data for their “high-precision strikes.” However, Grozev asserts that all information regarding “corridors” in airspace was deliberately misrepresented to mislead Russians.

In the spring of 2023, it became known about one more attempt to lure a Russian pilot who rode Su-24 and Su-34 bombers in the summer of 2022. This was most likely a continuation of the previous story.

It was reported that the serviceman, a former acting commander of one of the units of the Special Operations Forces, Roman Chervinsky, together with others, carried out an operation to seize a Russian combat aircraft.

The Russian military pilot seemed to agree to an offer to switch sides with Ukraine and overtake the combat jet. According to the plan, he was supposed to fly from Russia to the Ukrainian airfield “Kanatove,” leave the plane there, receive a money reward and new documents, and leave for Europe. But this plan also failed.

In April 2023, the Security Service of Ukraine, together with the Prosecutor General Office, accused Chervinsky of suspicion in the case of Russian shelling of the Kanatove airfield in the Kirovohrad region. This caused the loss of SU-27 aircraft and SU-24 of the Ukrainian Air Force.

“His unauthorized actions led to a missile attack by the enemy on the Kanatove airfield in the Kirovohrad region in the summer of 2022,” the Secret Services of Ukraine stated.

Наслідки російського удару по українському аеродрому «Канатове» на Кіровоградщині. Липень 2022. Україна. Фото: СБУ

The military is accused of receiving data by the Russian special services about the location of Ukrainian aviation and personnel of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine at the airfield as a result of his actions. That also helped the enemy hit the airfield with cruise missiles.

“This operation was carried out despite the objections of the SSU and without the consent of the relevant state authorities. As a result, the enemy received data on the deployment of personnel of the Air Forces of the Armed Forces and Ukrainian aircraft at the Kanatove airfield. This allowed Russia to fire at the airport,” stated the SSU.

Залишки від українського літака Су-24 на аеродромі «Канатове» на Кіровоградщині. Липень 2022. Україна. Фото: СБУ

It is reported that before the implementation of the special operation, the SSU and the Defense Intelligence expressed their objections to such a plan, due to the many risks. It was also not agreed upon by other government bodies.

The detention of a serviceman in this case turned into an issue that created conflict in Ukrainian society, since Chervinsky had many supporters.

Encouraging Russians to voluntarily transfer equipment

Recall that in the spring of 2022, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine established an official level of remuneration for voluntarily transferring Russian equipment to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. According to the current law, the crew can receive $500,000 for a combat helicopter, and $1 million for a combat aircraft.

The law also provides for the secrecy of the transfer of equipment and further guarantees for the organizers of such a transfer. Ukraine guarantees a safe stay on its territory, the production of documents with new personal data, and the departure of the family to the territory of third countries.

A similar case with a Soviet plane

Given the successful operation to seize the Russian Mi-8 military helicopter, we can recall that cases of not only accidental flights, but also real escapes on military aircraft occurred during Soviet Union times.

Perhaps the most famous such case occurred on September 6, 1976, when a Soviet MiG-25P interceptor under the control of pilot Viktor Belenko flew to Japan.

Bilenko took off from Sokolovka airfield at 6:45 a.m. local time to perform flight exercises. At 7:40, the fighter crossed the Soviet-Japanese border. At 9:15, Japanese radio broadcast that the MiG-25P aircraft with the tail number “31” had landed at Hakodate Airport (Hokkaido Island).

Subsequently, the Japanese authorities made an official announcement that Belenko sought political asylum in the United States, where he subsequently received American citizenship. On September 9, she was taken to the United States.

The USSR demanded the immediate return of the combat aircraft, which at that time was the most modern Soviet fighter. However, the Japanese authorities said that the MiG-25P violated the state border of Japan, so it will be returned only after a thorough review. The plane was transported to an American military base, where it was dismantled and thoroughly studied. Thus, American experts received, in particular, secret information about the IFF recognition system that was on the fighter. This caused enormous damage to the Soviet Union. After this case, it was necessary to re-install this system throughout Soviet military aviation.

Subsequently, the MiG-25P was transferred to the Soviet side. It was dismantled into thirteen containers.

Air Force of Russia Aviation Helicopters Neighbors Occupants elimination Russia Russian Armed Forces War with Russia Ми-8/17/171 Україна


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