From March 21 to May 11, 2022, 15 helicopters and 45 crew members took part in almost 30 rescue helicopter missions at Azovstal. Of the 15 helicopters involved in the operations, three were shot down. More than 20 missions failed.
The Ukrainian military shared the details of suicidal helicopter missions to Azovstal, which was surrounded by Russian invaders. Journalists of The Times write about it.
The publication writes that on March 28, 2022, the United States shared with Ukrainian intelligence information about the location of Russian air defense systems, mainly Pantsir and Buk, near Mariupol. The squadron commander of the 12th separate army aviation brigade, Colonel Grigory, laid out a route in such a way as to bypass the systems.
“Everything superfluous was taken out from the helicopter to make room for cargo, even machine guns. The pilots understood that the task was extremely dangerous. But no one refused,” he said.
As the participants of the operation said, a total of 4 helicopters took off, 2 of which were for cover. Ukrainian pilots dropped four tons of cargo and returned with the wounded.
One of the pilots, Vitaly, said he did not panic when he received the order. He just wanted to survive and complete the task set by the command. Vitaly and the co-pilot were flying the helicopter at a height of 3 meters above the ground at a speed of 250 kilometers per hour. They took off from their base in the Dnieper.
A young MTR officer, “Ryzhiy”, who was also on board, said that at one point the helicopters flew over the tent camp of Russian soldiers. When they managed to get to the Sea of Azov, “Red” noticed two Russian warships, but they did not open fire.
Vitaly reportedly wept when he remembered Mariupol, a completely destroyed and on fire city.
The publication writes that the pilots made contact with Azov commander Denis Prokopenko and landed at Azovstal. It took them only 7 minutes to unload all the equipment and pick up the wounded.
Unknown details of helicopter missions at Azovstal
The material says that from March 21 to May 11, 2022, 15 helicopters and 45 crew members took part in almost 30 rescue helicopter missions at Azovstal. The Azov fighters and the Ukrainian marines were delivered Starlink terminals, ammunition and medicines, and the seriously wounded were taken away. True, only 6 missions were successfully completed, and more than 20 did not. Of the 15 helicopters involved in the operations, three were shot down.
According to “Ryzhy”, the Russians often waited for Ukrainian helicopters and fired at them.
Grigory said that over time it was decided that each pilot would take part in such a mission only once.
Last mission to Azovstal
“Redhead” told reporters that during the last mission he flew in a cover helicopter. When the two main helicopters were returning from Azovstal, communication with one of them was lost. The car “Ryzhy” flew out in search. Finding out that there was a crash and finding the crash site, it was decided to land. It was then that the helicopter opened fire from anti-tank weapons. The Mi-8 “Red” was knocked out, the pilot Vyacheslav died. However, “Red” himself and several other special forces soldiers who were on board managed to survive.
It is reported that many were taken prisoner by the Russian invaders.
This was the last such mission, as the Russians fortified the line and brought troops there. Moreover, fighter jets began to patrol in the sky. As a result, it became clear to the pilots and command that it would no longer be possible to break through to Azovstal. This led to the order to surrender Azovstal on 20 May.
Recall that the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valery Zaluzhny told when Ukraine will de-occupy Mariupol. According to him, this will happen this year.
Also, the adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, Petr Andryushchenko, said that the Russian Armed Forces were mining the occupied city. Thus, the occupiers began to more thoroughly check the documents and telephones of the population. The Russian military also began to mine the approaches to the bridges at an accelerated pace.
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