Day 546: Russian military pilot defects to Ukraine with Mi-8 helicopter

Ukraine marks National Flag Day. Ukrainian intelligence lures a Russian pilot with a Mi-8 helicopter to Ukraine. Ukraine destroys Russia’s S-400 air defense system with personnel in Crimea. 

Ukraine marks National Flag Day

Ukraine marks National Flag Day on August 23, and Independence Day on August 24. There will be no public gatherings on both holidays for safety reasons. 

On Wednesday, what is believed to be the largest Ukrainian national flag flew over the National Museum of Ukraine’s History in World War II in Kyiv. The flag was signed by Ukrainian service members.

President Zelenskyi took part in the ceremony where a company of the honor guard marched and the national anthem was played.  

“Our flag is our strength, a source of will, unbreakable spirit for all the warriors who go into battle with this flag on their armor and under their hearts, fight for every meter of our land, go forward and will reach our victory,” Zelenskyi said.

The flag hoisted in Kyiv was signed by Ukrainian soldiers across the country, from Chernihiv to Odesa.

“[This flag was in the positions] along the entire defense line of Ukraine, in various combat brigades and units, in hospitals where the wounded undergo treatment, in the hands of volunteers. This flag will always keep the memory of many Ukrainians. More signatures of our warriors will certainly be added and will enrich it,” the President said.

Ukrainian intelligence lures Russian pilot with Mi-8 helicopter to Ukraine

A Russian Mi-8 military helicopter landed in Ukraine as part of a six-month special operation by the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, said Ukrainian news web site Ukrainska Pravda, citing senior intelligence officials. 

The helicopter was on a flight between two airbases, transporting parts for Su-27 and Su-30 fighter jets.

Two other crew members on the helicopter were not aware of the pilot’s plan. Mi-8 landed in Kharkiv region. (Andriy Yusov, spokesperson for Ukraine’s defense intelligence, earlier said that the helicopter landed in Poltava region).

Both crew members were killed. The pilot’s family was brought from Russia to Ukraine before his defection. The pilot and his family are staying in Ukraine. 

The Mi-8 and the spare parts it was carrying are in Ukraine.

Commenting on the operation, Ukrainian journalist Yuriy Butusov said: “The Russians blame the landing on navigation error, but that’s just another Russia’s lie. The Poltava air base, where the helicopter landed, according to a Russian milblogger, is about 300 km away from the front line. The Russians could have landed there only purposefully, after a well-prepared flight.” 

“The helicopter flies at a low altitude and slow speeds. The crew can see orientation signs on the ground. A 300-kilometer mistake is impossible, that’s heavy fuel consumption. It could not have happened by chance. If Russia’s account is accurate, it may well be the first ever case when a pilot defected with a Russian military helicopter,” Butusov said.

Ukraine destroys Russia’s S-400 air defense system with personnel in Crimea

On the morning of August 23, the Ukrainian military destroyed a Russian long- and medium-range S-400 Triumph missile system in occupied Crimea. Ukraine’s defense intelligence released a video of the explosion.

The attack took place at 10 a.m. near the village of Olenivka on Cape Tarkhankut in western Crimea. “As a result of the explosion, the installation itself, the missiles installed on it and the personnel were completely destroyed,” the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said.

S-400 (NATO code name SA-21 Growler) is a Russian surface-to-air system capable of shooting down targets at long and medium ranges. It can engage airborne warning and control systems, radar pickets, airborne command posts, strategic bombers, and, according to the manufacturer, hypersonic cruise and ballistic missiles.

Given the limited number of such systems in Russia’s arsenal, this is “a painful blow” to the occupiers’ air defense system, “which will have a serious impact on further events in the occupied Crimea,” Ukraine’s intelligence said.

On August 22, 2023, Ukraine’s defense intelligence chief, Major General Kyrylo Budanov said the Ukrainians “will see in the coming days” how the occupiers are being destroyed in Crimea.

Russian propaganda in the Polish parliamentary elections. Ukraine in Flames #497

In this episode, our guests provide insight into the upcoming elections in Poland, discussing the key issues and geopolitical factors at play. They highlight the artificial Belarusian migrant crisis and its impact on Poland’s security measures, the ‘Ukrainian refugee issue’ in Poland, the grain dispute, and the role of the Wagner Group in Belarus and its potential as a hybrid tool. Together, they analyze the intricate dynamics of Russian influence in the context of Polish elections and its implications for the broader Euro-Atlantic security landscape. Watch episode #497 of Ukraine in Flames to learn more about this ongoing situation

  • Marianna Prysyazhnyuk, Head of the Hybrid Threats Analysis Group at UCMC
  • Yevhen Magda, Political Expert 
  • Taras Zhovtenko, National Security Expert