A Russian pilot defected to Ukraine by landing a Mi-8 helicopter at a Ukrainian military airbase, according to Ukrainian officials. This action was the result of a six-month secret plot and even involved bringing the pilot’s family to Ukraine prior to his defection. Two other crew members on the helicopter were not aware of the plan, and Ukraine’s military-intelligence agency claimed they were “eliminated” when they refused to surrender. Along with the helicopter, the pilot also brought parts of Su-27 and Su-30SM multirole fighter jets.
- Daring Defection: A Russian pilot, in a calculated move, landed a Mi-8 helicopter at the Poltava military airbase in Kharkiv, Ukraine, in what appears to be a planned defection.
- Elimination of Other Crew Members: Two other crew members who were unaware of the pilot’s plan were unwilling to surrender and were “eliminated,” according to Ukraine’s military-intelligence agency.
- Additional Equipment Brought: Along with the helicopter, parts of Su-27 and Su-30SM multirole fighter jets were also brought, supposedly being transported between two Russian air bases.
- Discrepancy in Reports: While Ukraine asserts this was a planned defection, Pro-Russian social-media channels claim the helicopter landed accidentally after the crew became disoriented. The significant distance from the front line makes an accidental landing unlikely.
- Potential Compensation: Ukraine has previously offered large sums to defecting Russian soldiers who hand over military equipment. The status of compensation for this pilot, however, is still unclear.