It has been a week of Ukrainian military intelligence and special forces missions that are no doubt getting under Russian President Vladimir Putin's skin. In a rare prize of a daring intelligence operation and defection, a Russian Mi-8 helicopter became an asset of Ukraine — along with its pilot.
A Ukrainian military intelligence official confirmed on Wednesday key details of a blockbuster story first reported in a prominent national newspaper.
Russian newspaper Pravda says the plot took six months to plan, and the defecting pilot's family was spirited into Ukraine in advance — to protect them from Russian reprisals.
The two other crew members on board thought they were flying these spare parts for fighter jets to a base inside Russia. They didn't realize their pilot was actually crossing into Ukraine until too late.
Pravda reports,"as a result of the special operation, two crew members were eliminated."
A Russian blogger connected to Russia's air force offered an alternative explanation for the Mi-8 going missing, saying "the crew, for some reason, lost their bearings" and mistakenly flew across the border into Ukraine.
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The story comes as Moscow absorbs other embarrassing blows, including new footage posted by Ukrainian defense intelligence of a Russian S-400 air defense system in Crimea destroyed in a Ukrainian air strike.
Ukrainian intelligence, the very next day, released video of a joint mission with the country's navy. Their operatives raided the same area in Crimea as the destroyed Russian air defense system. It was the first known on-land mission by Ukrainian forces on the peninsula so sacrosanct to Putin.
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