A senior Ukrainian official revealed for the first time how a Russian helicopter pilot defected by flying his Mi-8, with unsuspecting crew members, into Ukraine.
In an interview with Radio Liberty, set to be broadcast later this week, the head of Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence Agency, Kirillo Budanov, described how the incident developed.
“We were able to find the right approach to the man,” he told the media.
“We were able to create the conditions to get his entire family out undetected, and finally to create the conditions so that he could take over this plane with a crew that didn’t know what was going on.
“There were two other people with him – a whole crew of three. When they realized where they had landed, they tried to run away. Unfortunately, they were finished off. We’d rather (take them) alive, but that’s the way it is.”
Budanov added: “The pilot feels good, everything is fine. He has two options, but he tends to stay here.”
“Nobody’s done this before, but I hope we can now scale it up.”
CNN has not confirmed whether the defection actually occurred, as described.
An unofficial Russian Telegram channel reported that a Mi-8 helicopter flew to Ukraine and landed in the central Poltava region by mistake.
Another said the plane diverted to the Ukrainian town of Vovshansk across the Russian border in Kharkiv, which would be more likely than flying all the way into central Ukraine.
Russia’s Telegram Voenniy Osvedomitel said that Ukrainian intelligence had lured the pilot to Ukrainian territory and that the helicopter was carrying spare parts for Su-30SM and Su-27 fighters. It also reported that two other crew members were killed while trying to escape.
Ukrainian journalist Yuri Butusov, who has good contacts in the Ministry of Defense, said the Mi-8 had gone to a Ukrainian base. “The helicopter is completely intact and will be added to the Ukrainian armed forces after a detailed examination of its equipment,” he said.
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