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How DIU lures Russian helicopter to Ukraine: the flight of "Synytsya"

The Defence Intelligence of Ukraine has revealed the details of one of its best special operations. First, in the documentary "Downed Russian Pilots". Then - at a closed press conference with the participation of the Russian pilot who brought the Mi-8AMTSh helicopter of the Russian Aerospace Forces to Ukraine.

On 23 August 2023, a Russian Mi-8 helicopter landed in Ukraine. Initially, it was believed that the crew had lost their landmarks and accidentally landed at an air base near Poltava.

It turned out that the Mi-8 was indeed in Ukraine. On 23 August, it did indeed land near Kharkiv, and the Main Intelligence Directorate was directly involved. And that there was nothing accidental about it.

It also turned out that no one had stolen the helicopter in the case of the Synytsya.

We will tell you why the DIU is proud of the way the special operation took place, why an exception was made to disclose details in this case, what the former Russian pilot Maxim Kuzminov was doing from 24 February to 8 August when he landed the helicopter on our territory, and what he will do next in Ukraine. 

How DIU lures Russian helicopter to Ukraine: the flight of "Synytsya"
Photo: DIU

The press conference was held in the best traditions of spy blockbusters: the search on the entrance, lists with individual invitations were checked twice, the heroes of the event were dressed in dramatic black, and there was a loud press with heavy camera equipment on the chairs.

The speakers - DIU spokesman Andriy Yusov and journalist, military man and director, author of the documentary series "Military Intelligence of Ukraine" Artem Shevchenko - were the first to appear and told the story in general terms, which has already been popularly known as "the one where a helicopter was stolen and Russian pilots were shot."

Yusov and Shevchenko see the incident somewhat differently: they say it was a brilliant DIU special operation that resulted in a new friend of Ukraine in the person of yesterday's enemy, a 2016 helicopter, the only one in Ukraine so far, and spare parts for Russian fighter jets that did not reach their destination.

Photo: Telegram/DIU

In addition, a precedent has been set at maximum disclosure. A way to encourage Russian pilots to make alternative decisions in the future when they do not want to fight on the side of the aggressor country, an opportunity for Ukraine to show the international community its ability to keep wartime promises: these are the benefits the DIU currently sees in the successful outcome of the special operation.

"This event will definitely go down in the heroic history of Ukraine," Yusov said, comparing "Synytsya" to Diamond, a 1966 special operation by the Israeli Mossad. Back then, Israeli intelligence was tasked with hijacking a Soviet Mig-21 airplane to understand its design. Mossad managed to accomplish the task only on the third attempt, involved an Iraqi Christian pilot who was against the bombing of Kurds and could not make a career because of his religious beliefs.

Representative of the Coordination Center for the Treatment of Prisoners of War Andriy Yusov
Photo: The Coordination Center for the Treatment of Prisoners of War
Representative of the Coordination Center for the Treatment of Prisoners of War Andriy Yusov

What is known about the pilot

Maksym Kuzminov, a 28-year-old helicopter pilot, assured journalists that he believes in God and is no longer afraid of anything. He made the right decision with himself on 24 February, 2022: "From the very beginning I clearly understood that this war is a crime." Maksym's parents supported him and during the preparation of the special operation they were taken out to Ukraine. The pilot learned about the possibility of not participating in the war from the Russian side thanks to the "I Want to Live" campaign, and then contacted the DIU. The special operation was launched with the assistance of the Internal Security Department of the National Police, lasted about six months, and Andriy Yusov promised to disclose the number of attempts, to name or call signs of its leader, and details of the security arrangements after "Russian troops leave Ukraine."

Maxim Kuzminov
Photo: Ukrinform
Maxim Kuzminov

According to Yusov and Shevchenko, the date of the Russian helicopter's landing at the Ukrainian airfield was repeatedly postponed. All this time, the pilot Kuzminov was flying cargo flights "with tears in his eyes," keeping his promise not to participate in the bombing. He flew to Mariupol and Berdyansk, transported spare parts for Su-27 and Su-30 fighters. His last flight from the Russian airbase was in radio silence, and his leg was injured at the border. He did not steal the helicopter, but piloted it on a predetermined route from point A to point B in the Kharkiv Region. He tried to convince two crew members to take his side and stay in Ukraine. They disagreed and immediately after landing "went towards the Russian border". Maksym does not know the fate of the crew.

Andriy Yusov, Artem Shevchenko and Maksym Kuzminov
Andriy Yusov, Artem Shevchenko and Maksym Kuzminov

Kuzminov is currently in Ukraine. He is waiting for the payments promised by the state and new documents, and is giving important testimony. "I like our country, Ukraine, good people live here," the pilot admits. As for the future, he will "definitely consider the offers" he has so far: to become a pilot in the Ukrainian military aviation or to go to Europe. "He is a free man of a free country," Yusov said, "and we are citizens of a country that keeps its word and respects its laws.

According to the Verkhovna Rada's decision of 1 April, 2022, the reward for a Russian combat helicopter voluntarily surrendered to the Ukrainian Armed Forces is $500,000. 

Photo: Video screenshot

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