Ukraine intelligence service helps Russian Mi-8 helicopter pilot defect: report 

Yura Taratunin /

A pilot of the Russian Armed Forces reportedly defected to Ukraine with his Mi-8 helicopter following an operation by the Ukrainian military intelligence service (GUR).

The story was first reported by the Ukrainian Pravda, citing “high-ranking sources within Ukrainian intelligence agencies.”

The mission lasted over six months and concluded with the Russian pilot rerouting his Mi-8 AMTSh assault transport helicopter during a logistical flight between two airbases, transporting parts intended for Su-27 and Su-30SM fighter jets.

Two crew members were also on board the flight, which eventually landed in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine. They were both neutralized during the operation.

The family of the pilot was evacuated from Russian territory by the GUR.

The Ukrainian media outlet published pictures showing the helicopter along with its content.

A similar plot was allegedly thwarted by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) in July 2022, in which Ukrainian special service employees were reported to have offered Russian pilots up to $2 million to defect.

The FSB intercepted the plot and claimed it managed to extract secret data from the Ukrainian side. However, according to Christo Grozev, a journalist and the lead Russia investigator at investigative agency Bellingcat involved in the operation, the Ukrainian services were aware of the FSB’s involvement and fed fake information.

On April 20, 2023, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) announced that several Ukrainian service members involved in the unapproved plot would be charged after their actions led to a missile attack on the Kanatove airfield on July 23, 2022.

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