Mi-8s hit deep in Ukrainian territory: 50 km behind front lines

Two out of three Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopters were destroyed by Russian loitering munitions, likely Lancets. The third is suspected to have been damaged yet managed to launch. Video of the incident emerged around 24 hours ago, prompting numerous questions, mainly about how Ukraine lost these two critical assets. 

Mi-8s hit deep in Ukrainian territory: 50 km behind front lines
Video screenshot

The incident occurred in Ukraine, oriented towards Donetsk. A drone captured footage of the Russian assault. Parked openly beside a minor road, three helicopters had landed and were preparing to launch. Based on Ukrainian and Russian sources, they had been loaded with ammunition. Evidence of this claim can be seen in the footage of a military truck departing from the destruction site. By the time of the assault, the truck had already reached a 1 km distance from the location. In the video’s opening scene, as the three helicopters start their rotor blades, the truck can be seen near the helicopters. 

The subsequent shots transition to a moment where the helicopters are grounded again, their blades idle. The likely cause could have been the initial barrage of cluster munitions, which, although they didn’t obliterate the helicopters, probably inflicted sufficient damage via shrapnel to ground them. A kamikaze drone is then seen striking the first helicopter, causing it to erupt in flames. A similar fate followed for the second helicopter.

Mi-8s hit deep in Ukrainian territory: 50 km behind front lines
Video screenshot

32.4 miles

It appears that before the two helicopters were destroyed, the third managed to take off. Either it didn’t sustain any significant damage, or it wasn’t substantial enough to hinder it from getting airborne. The status of the crew from the two downed helicopters remains unknown. There’s a possibility of their survival but that remains speculative. 

The site where the two helicopters were destroyed is extremely profound. Located between the settlements of Muravka and Novopovlivka in the Donetsk region, this field lies just 32.4 miles [50 km] from the nearest frontline fighting, as the crow flies. These two villages and the intervening field represent a stark distance from the heat of battle. 

Mi-8s hit deep in Ukrainian territory: 50 km behind front lines
Google map

Given that the helicopters were dispatched by drones, it’s curious to note that these drones managed to traverse 32 miles unchallenged through Ukrainian-controlled territory before crashing into the helicopters. Furthermore, video footage indicates the use of cluster munitions, suggesting the involvement of another Russian airborne unit deep within the Ukrainian military’s rear lines. It’s plausible to presume the involvement of Russian helicopters, or perhaps attack aircraft such as the Su-25, though this remains unconfirmed at this point. 

These incidents do cast a glaring light on the combat readiness of Ukrainian air defenses within the area if any were present at all. Otherwise, what were the three helicopters doing in a region where the airspace is not under protection? As noted by a few analysts, this situation illustrates a reckless squandering of assets essential to Ukraine.

Ukraine is losing assets

In the past 7-8 days, we’ve witnessed an impressive level of accuracy in Russian strikes on Ukrainian assets. The Russians were the first to successfully target the US-supplied HIMARS MLRS missile system with an Iskander ballistic missile. This destruction has been confirmed by both Ukrainian and Russian sources. Additionally, there’s evidence of other HIMARS that were hit – not destroyed – which have since been taken in for repairs. 

Concurrently, or possibly just before, the Russian Armed Forces managed to obliterate four M1 Abrams tanks. Some reports suggest a fifth, but confirmation on this is still pending. The Russians also confirmed the destruction of the S-300 air defense system. However, video evidence seems to suggest, according to various experts, that these might actually be two launch platforms of the Patriot systems. 

Lastly, roughly 36 hours ago, both Russia and Ukraine confirmed the loss of a MiG-29 from the Ukrainian Air Force. Moreover, there was an unsuccessful attempt by the Ukrainian army-backed units of the Russian Free Army to cross into Russian territory at checkpoints in the Belgorod region. Merely four hours later, several infantry vehicles and a T-64 tank were destroyed by Russian FSB forces. Coupled with the destruction of two Mi-8 helicopters, Ukraine lost vital assets within a matter of days.

Russian ballistic missile misses HIMARS in unstealthed encounter
Video screenshot

2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine

On February 21, 2022, Russia stated that its border facility was attacked by Ukrainian forces, resulting in the deaths of five Ukrainian fighters. However, Ukraine quickly dismissed these allegations, labeling them as ‘false flags’.

In a notable move on the same day, Russia announced it officially recognized the self-proclaimed areas of DPR and LPR. Interestingly, according to Russian President Putin, this recognition covered all the Ukrainian regions. Following this declaration, Putin sent a battalion of Russia’s military forces, tanks included, into these areas.

Mine explosion and artillery take down 4th (5th) US-supplied M1 tank
Video screenshot

Fast forward to February 24, 2022, global headlines were dominated by a significant incident. Putin commanded a forceful military assault on Ukraine. Led by Russia’s impressive Armed Forces positioned at the Ukrainian border, this assault wasn’t spontaneous but a premeditated action. Despite the circumstances resembling a war, the Russian government refrains from using this term. They’d rather refer to it as a “special military operation”.

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