LATEST UPDATE 5 MAY 2014 (3RD HIND DOWNED, PILOT RELEASED) | A third Ukrainian Army Mil Mi-24 Hind was shot down on 5 May 2014, about 14:30 local time, near Slovyansk, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence confirmed. It’s the third aircraft loss to hostile fire in three days and the third in the third such event in the history of the country.
Fortunately both Hind crew members made it out alive, because the machine either crashed or ditched in a river after it was hit by heavy machine gun fire from what appeared to be pro-Russian separatists in the area. The pilot and gunner were med-evacuated back to camp by Ukrainian soldiers coming to their rescue.
Also some positive news from Eastern Ukraine on Monday 5 May: Captain Yevhena Krasnokuts – the pilot of one of the two Hinds downed earlier this month – was released from captivity. Doctors at the Ukraine Military Medical Clinical Centre of the Northern region are satisfied with his condition, although the captain did sustain some wounds because of his crash. At the same military hospital the bodies of the three crew members that died during the shoot-down on 2 May of two other Hinds.
According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence shoulder-launched portable surface-to-air missiles – MANPADS in short – shot down two of its Mil Mi-24 attack helicopters near the town of Slovyansk that day. The two downed Hinds mark the first losses ever of an Ukrainian Air Force aircraft in mid-air by hostile fire since the country gained independence after the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The statement released by Kiev (Kyiv) confirmed earlier reports from eye-witnesses and Russian sources that pro-Russian separatists downed an Ukrainian Army helicopter. According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence both crew members on one of the Hinds were killed. Of the second Hind one of the Ukrainian Army pilots had apparently been taken prisoner by alleged separatists, the faith of the second crew member unknown – although it is possible that there was only one crew member on board one of the Hinds.
The use of MANPADS – be aware that it has not been independently confirmed – clearly shows the anti-government paramilitary groups that now hold key positions in and around a dozen of Eastern Ukrainian towns are well armed and trained in the use of more sophisticated weapons than the “everyday” Kalashnikov. Moreover, a normal machine gun would make the downing of an armoured Mi-24 very very difficult.
The Mi-24s were not the only choppers hit after the Ukrainian military started its renewed offensive against pro-Russian separatists positions in the early hours of 2 May. An Ukrainian Army Mi-8 “Hip” armed assault and transport helicopter got hit several times by small arms fire, wounding – according to Kiev – one soldier on board (see photos below).
Several eye-witnesses and journalists nearby say the Ukrainian Army helicopters fired upon road-blocks put up by the separatists just outside of the city of Slovyansk. All helicopters are believed to be operating from forward positions in the fields near Slovyansk and from Kramatorsk Airbase – which was a reserve field until recently. On 25 April one of the Mi-8s deployed to Kramatorsk exploded on the ground with several wounded as a result. According to a spokesperson of the Ukrainian Armed Forces the fuel tank had been hit by a large calibre sniper bullet. Others say it was hit by grenade fire.
© 2014 AIRheads’ editor Marcel Burger