Ukrainian intelligence says it lured Russian helicopter to land in Ukraine

By Max Hunder

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukraine's GUR military intelligence agency deliberately lured a Russian military pilot to land his Mi-8 helicopter at a Ukrainian airfield, spokesperson Andriy Yusov said on Wednesday, amid differing media reports of what happened.

"This was a GUR operation. The aircraft moved according to the plan," Yusov told Reuters.

A successful operation to capture a working Russian helicopter and its pilot would represent an audacious coup for Ukraine, allowing it to simultaneously replenish its limited aviation stocks while also potentially getting valuable intelligence on the Russian air force.

Ukrainian media outlet Ukrainska Pravda cited unnamed intelligence sources as saying the agency worked for over six months to convince the pilot to cooperate and fly the aircraft to Ukraine.

The report said the helicopter landed in eastern Ukraine with the pilot. Two other crew members who were unaware of the plan were subsequently "liquidated".

Ukrainian military journalist Yuriy Butusov reported that the Mi-8 helicopter had landed at a Ukrainian air base "some time ago", citing unnamed sources in the Ukrainian military command.

Butusov said the helicopter was fully operational and would serve in the Ukrainian armed forces after being examined.

Asked about reports of the incident on national television, GUR spokesperson Yusov said that his organisation was working with the helicopter crew and that official information would be given soon.

"You will need to wait a bit, work is being conducted, including with the crew. Everything is fine, there will be news," he said.

Russia's defence ministry did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for comment.

Earlier on Wednesday, Fighterbomber, a popular Russian pro-war Telegram channel focused on aviation, said it had information that the helicopter had got lost and accidentally landed in Ukraine "a couple of weeks ago".

In April, Ukraine's domestic security service accused a number of Ukrainian military personnel of treason after what it said was an unsuccessful attempt to lure a Russian pilot to land at a Ukrainian air base, which led to a lethal Russian missile strike on that location in July 2022.

(Reporting by Max Hunder; Editing by Nick Macfie)