It has been a week of Ukrainian military intelligence and special forces missions that are no doubt getting under Russian President Vladimir Putin’s skin. In a rare prize of a daring intelligence operation and defection, a Russian Mi-8 helicopter became an asset of Ukraine — along with its pilot.
A Ukrainian military intelligence official confirmed on Wednesday key details of a blockbuster story first reported in a prominent national newspaper.
Russian newspaper Pravda says the plot took six months to plan, and the defecting pilot’s family was spirited into Ukraine in advance — to protect them from Russian reprisals.
The two other crew members on board thought they were flying these spare parts for fighter jets to a base inside Russia. They didn’t realize their pilot was actually crossing into Ukraine until too late.
Pravda reports,”as a result of the special operation, two crew members were eliminated.”
A Russian blogger connected to Russia’s air force offered an alternative explanation for the Mi-8 going missing, saying “the crew, for some reason, lost their bearings” and mistakenly flew across the border into Ukraine.
The story comes as Moscow absorbs other embarrassing blows, including new footage posted by Ukrainian defense intelligence of a Russian S-400 air defense system in Crimea destroyed in a Ukrainian air strike.
Ukrainian intelligence, the very next day, released video of a joint mission with the country’s navy. Their operatives raided the same area in Crimea as the destroyed Russian air defense system. It was the first known on-land mission by Ukrainian forces on the peninsula so sacrosanct to Putin.