Ukrainian military intelligence (HUR) confirmed reports that a Russian Mi-8 helicopter has landed at a Ukrainian air base.
“Yes, we have such reports. You will have to wait a bit. We are working with the crew, among other things. Everything is fine, there will be news soon,” HUR spokesperson Andriy Yusov said during a telethon.
Ukrainian media previously wrote citing sources that military intelligence had carried out a six-month operation to recruit the Mi-8 pilot.
The helicopter, which was carrying parts for Russian Su-27 and Su-30 fighter jets, landed in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region. According to media reports, there were two more crew on board the helicopter, who did not know the aircraft was headed for Ukraine and had to be “eliminated”.
The pilot’s family is reported to have been moved to Ukraine in advance.
Fighterbomber, a pro-Russian Telegram channel, claimed that the Mi-8 had disappeared several weeks ago. According to him, the pilot accidentally crossed the Ukrainian border and ended up landing at an air base in Poltava in central Ukraine. Fighterbomber added that the two crew members were killed and the pilot was injured after the Ukrainian forces fired at the helicopter from the ground, implying that the pilot did not defect voluntarily.
Ukrainian journalist Yuri Butusov rejects the idea that the landing was an accident, pointing out that the Poltava air base is 300 kilometres away from the front line. He finds that the landing was intentional and well-prepared.
The Russian Defence Ministry has not commented on the incident.