A group of Mi-17s supplied to Ukraine by the US and originally intended for Afghanistan. Various markings can be seen, including on the lower fuselage and on the tail gates.
Another calm before the storm
Text: Miro Baric
Photo: Ukrainian Armed Forces, social media and other public sources.
The period from April 1 to May 1 can be described as the calm before the storm. Sure, the fierce fighting for Bakhmut continued, as well as at some other places, however, the front line was practically stagnant. Also, the preparations for the Ukrainian counterattack were on the way in the form of attacks on the important targets in the Russian rear. Similar situation occurred last summer before the liberation of the Kharkiv area and Kherson.
Bakhmut did not fall. That’s the summary of the fighting during the month of April. Sadly, a lot of horror hides behind this short statements, experienced by both the defenders and Ukrainian civilian population. The worst was the rocket attack on Friday April 28, when after 51 days of calm Kiev became the target again. It happened exactly on the day when Slovak president Zuzana Čaputová and Czech president Petr Pavel were visiting the capital. Both had to seek shelter due to the air raid alarm. On that day, the Russian strategic bombers launched 23 missiles, the Ukrainian AA defense shot down 21 of them. Two kamikaze drones were also destroyed. No victims were reported in Kiev however in Dnipro a women with three years old daughter died. The worst impact was suffered by the town of Uman where part of nine stories apartment building collapsed after the hit. 23 people died including four children. The attack took place at four o clock in the morning when people were asleep.
Shots of Mi-17 helicopters delivered from the USA and used by the 12th Separate Brigade of the Army Aviation of Ukraine.
This member of the 12 Separate Brigade of the Army Air Force of Ukraine has an interesting patch of the Slovak Helicopter Wing Prešov on his shoulder.
Patriot protects Ukraine
In the end of April, the Ukrainian AA defense received an important reinforcement. According to the official statement of the Ukrainian AF, the first battery of the Patriot system was fully operationally deployed and in the end of the month another battery was preparing to deploy to the positions and the action. There have been talks about the possible Patriots’ delivery since October until the USA confirmed in December delivery of one battery. In January, Germany promised delivery of another battery and Netherlands then joined with delivery of two launchers. At peace time the crew training takes a year, but the Ukrainian soldiers had to complete it at Fort Sill in Oklahoma much sooner. Their training was scheduled for 10 weeks – and yet they managed to speed it up. “The Ukrainian soldiers made impression and learned very fast. Thanks to their deep knowledge and experiences in the AA defense in the combat zone it was easier for them, even though not always easy, to understand Patriot system”, told US Army General Shane Morgan to server Politico.
In total 65 Ukrainian soldiers, age 19 to 67, including several women, participated in the training. All were veterans of fighting against the Russian invasion with older AA system of the Soviet origin. Thanks to their vast combat experience they could advance faster than the students who would have to learn it all from the scratch. After several weeks they were able to erect the system from the transportation conditions to combat ready and operate it against the simulated threats in less than 45 minutes which is the American standard. They repeated this exercise 2–3 times per day to obtain the highest proficiency. Based on their knowledge of the Russian operation they even created their own scenarios. “They are best of the best in what they do for the AA defense of Ukraine”, concluded General Morgan for Politico. The training at Fort Sill was completed in March. Then the Ukrainian soldiers left the USA to an undisclosed location in Europe where the training of the second group of the Patriot crews took place. Both groups completed their training there together and from the end of April defend Ukraine.
Nice detail of the decoy targets on a Ukrainian Mi-24 helicopter.
S-8 missiles on a Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopter.
A pair of Ukrainian Mi-8s
armed with a machine gun in the nose. Between them is an
S-8 missiles being loaded into the missile launchers of a Ukrainian Mi-24 helicopter.
Unusual coloring of one of the Ukrainian MiG-29 fighters.
The first photo showing the originally Slovak MiG-29 in Ukrainian service. Judging by the distinctive camouflage, it is a two-seater UBS number 1303. It can be seen that the Slovakian insignia has been sprayed with the original shade of camouflage. The number 1303, which remained on the machine during transport from Slovakia, was repainted by the Ukrainians in a different color.
Revenge in Sevastopol
Immediately the following day after the tragedy in Uman an attack on the port of Sevastopol on the occupied Crimea took place which Ukraine called “God’s revenge”. Officially they don’t claim these incidents at all. On Saturday April 29, after the drones’ attack, the fuel dumps for the Black Sea fleet were set on fire. The massive fire destroyed, according to the Ukrainian estimates, 40.000 tons of fuel. The Russian officials stated that four drones attacked the dumps and two of them were destroyed. Two however penetrated and destroyed four tanks. The images of the burning dumps show however that 10 to 12 tanks had been hit, which is approximately half of the dumps capacity. After several day the unconfirmed reports were released that in fact as many as 30 drones had been used in the attack in three waves. In that manner they managed to deluge the Russian AA defense and part of them penetrated to the target. The drones were readily available, commercial, Chinese-made Mugin-5 modified by Ukraine to carry the explosives. Another piece of information worth pointing out is that there were no casualties during this attack on the Russian military target. That’s in the sharp contrast with the official Russian statements which continue to stress out that only Ukrainian military targets are attacked. Somehow, they manage to hit the apartment buildings, markets and kill civilian population on the regular basis.
A series of photos shows the destruction caused by a Russian missile in Uman on April 28. 23 people were killed in the destroyed apartment building.
One unexploded bomb was also found after the actual bombing of the Russian city of Belgorod on April 20.
Bombs fall on a friendly town
The attacks against civilian targets took place on their own territory. On Thursday April 20 at 10:15 pm the explosion took place in the Russian city of Belgorod, approximately 30 km from the Ukrainian border. The security camera recorded the incident. It occurred near the busy crossroad of Vatutin and Gubkin streets. First, the impact raising cloud of dust was recorded. After approximately 18 seconds the explosion took place damaging the buildings in the vicinity and destroying several parked cars – one of them was thrown in the air to the height of several stories and landed on the roof of a market located nearby. Next day the Russian authorities confirmed three people injured with the great luck no one was killed. The Russian Department of Defense confirmed that Su-34 were flying over the city and the “abnormal deployment of the ordnance” occured. The most probable explanation is that the Russian bomber intended to launch the gliding bombs on the Ukrainian targets but for some reason the wings on them did not deploy and they hit Belgorod in the free fall. The aircraft attacking Ukraine had been flying over the city on the regular basis. The explosion created the crater 20 m wide. During the damage and debris removal another unexploded bomb was found. Until its disarming 3.000 citizens from 17 apartment buildings had to be evacuated.
A civilian captured in Russia
During the reporting period no confirmed kill of the manned aircraft or Ukrainian AF helicopter was recorded. The Russians of course claimed several kills without confirmation, and it cannot be excluded that some of those will be documented much later, as it happened previously. It is however a first month since the outbreak of the war that not a single loss of a Ukrainian military aircraft was visually confirmed. Only one bizarre incident occurred involving a Ukrainian civilian aircraft. On Wednesday April 5, near Butovsk in Briansk area, an ultra-light Aeroprakt A-22 Foxbat airplane made an emergency landing. This type has been in production since 1990s and marketed in the USA as “Valor”. The airplane had to land after one of its propeller blades broke off. The pilot was captured byt the Russian border patrol. An older man supposedly stated that he was a Ukrainian civilian with a task to photograph the important objects. The Russians also published the pictures of the guns and ammunition supposedly in his possession. This describes the event release by Russians only, the real events remain unknown. To dispatch a civilian aircraft to photograph military objects at the time of available drones doesn’t make sense.
A Ukrainian civilian ultralight aircraft made an emergency landing in Russia’s Briansk Oblast on 5/4. The Russians immediately released photos of its captured pilot and his weapons.
During the reporting period several confirmed Russian losses were reported. On Friday April 7 a video was published showing a Russian Su-25 fighter-bomber shot down. It was hit by a detachment of the Ukrainian paratrooper unit at Oleksandrivka in Donetsk region. The aircraft fall can be seen in video followed by great explosion upon impact. To the left of the cloud of smoke and fire a white parachute descending to the ground can be seen. Therefore, the pilot was most likely rescued. By the way it was Russia’s 30th loss of this type of aircraft since the war started. Only Ka-52 helicopters suffered higher losses, 34. In April Russia also lost three helicopter, all of them Mi-24. One was shot down by a Ukrainian 10th Independent Mountain Attack Brigade on April 5 near the village of Berestov in the county of Bakhmut, Donetsk region. The aircraft belonged to the 112th Independent Helicopter Regiment and its loss was confirmed by the Russian authorities. It was hit by Piorun portable missile. Both crew members were killed. One of them was Lt. Ilnaz Fazylov. On April 20, under the unknown circumstances, Mi-24VM was lost. According to the limited information it crashed into the Sea of Azov near Kyrylivke in Melitopol county. At least one crew member was killed identified as Major Andrej Suetov. On April 24, near Krupyansk in Kharkov region a wreck of the Russian Mi-24VM helicopter was found. It was stated that it had crashed after hitting the high voltage lines. Both crew members were killed. One loss was sustained far from the war zone during the non-combat flight. It’s an example of the negative impact of the war on the Russian aircraft maintenance. On April 26 a Mig-31BM was set on fire and consequently crashed near the village of Rizh-Guba. Both pilots ejected successfully.
Russian Major Andrei Suetov was killed on April 20 in a Mi-24VM.
Major Andrei Suetov's name is also on the S-8 rocket that the Russian unit feeds into the missile launcher on the Mi-24.
Lieutenant Commander Ilnaz Fazylov was killed on April 5 after his Mi-24 was shot down by the Ukrainian 10 Independent Mountain Assault Brigade.
About half of the tanks in the Black Sea Fleet's fuel depot in Sevastopol burned down on April 29.
A Ukrainian Su-25 fires unguided missiles at Russian positions.
A HARM missile homed in on this Russian Tor system (SA-15 Gauntlet).
The crash of a MiG-31BM fighter in the Murmansk region was captured on video on April 26.
Accused of treason
In the end let’s present the case which show the damages caused by disobeying the orders-even with the best intentions. In the middle of April, a group of Ukrainian soldiers was accused of treason and abuse of power. The reason was that during the unauthorized mission they disclosed the information that, in July 2022, enabled the Russians to successfully attack the reserve airbase Kanatove. The Ukrainian secret service SBU stated in their report that the accused group of soldiers decided to proceed with an operation in order to capture the Russian military airplane with its pilot who supposedly agreed with the proposed defection to the Ukrainians. The operation was not approved however, and the soldiers acted against the secret service disapproval. “Thank to this, the enemy acquired the information about the Ukrainian AF personnel and operational aircraft locations. This information enabled the Russian Army to shell Kanatove airport in Kirovograd region”, stated SBU and added that during the Russian raid the unit commander was killed, 17 Ukrainian soldiers wounded, two fighters completely destroyed and the airport runway with building heavily damaged.
The Russian rocket attack took place on July 23, 2022. As a result, two Su-27 fighters were destroyed. After that the photographs appeared of the wrecks of at least two more Su-24 destroyed at Kanatove airport. Those had been most likely struck of charge before the Russian rocket attack. This case is obviously related to the article written this March by the American journalist Michael Weiss from Yahoo News. He spent several weeks researching the Ukrainian efforts to convince Russian pilots to defect to their side. Weiss also met a Ukrainian volunteer Bohdan who took par in the operation. The IT sector volunteers, together with the secret service and special units have worked on it from March to June 2022. It was based on the law adopted after the Russian invasion by the Ukrainian Parliament. Large sums of money were offered to the Russian soldiers who would defect with their equipment. One million US dollars for a military airplane, half a million for a helicopter. In addition, the soldiers and their families were promised new identity and help with relocation abroad. Volunteer Bohdan described three cases for Yahoo News when the Russian pilots were almost convinced to defect. The Russians on the other side claim to have known about the plan from the beginning and playing double game with the Ukrainians.
One of those three pilots was Igor Tveritin. This experienced 48 years old pilot previously flew strategic Tu-160 bombers and served in Syria as well. During the war in Ukraine, he already flew Tu-22M3 and bombed the targets in Mariupol. He had a wife and three children and demanded that the Ukrainians get them out of Russia first. He was supposed to fake a technical problem during the flight and land on the Ukrainian side. The rest of crew had no idea about his plans. Then, the Russians captured Mariupol and Tveritin was transferred to other flight duties. Also, he supposedly kept raising his demands and the Ukrainians cut off the relationship with him.
Another pilot, 33-years old Andrei Maslow, flew Su-24 bomber. He was married as well but wanted to flee with his lover and demanded that the Ukrainians arrange a new identity for her. Once the Ukrainian checked her background, they found out she was in contact with the Russian FSD and this plan fell through. For the third time the Ukrainian established the contact with 36-years old Roman Nosenko who fle Su-24 and Su-34. He was going to incapacitate his co-pilot with drugs put in his coffee. He demanded though that his wife escaped first but the Ukrainians also found out she was in contact with FSB so they backed off. These attempts were suspended last June and according to Yahoo News it is clear now that the Russian FSB knew about these plans in many cases. The Russians claim they had known about all of this from the beginning, and they were pulling the Ukrainians’ leg. It is clear today that the attempt organized by the soldiers from the Kanatove airbase on their own was a Russian trap in fact. It is certain though that FSD doesn’t trust their own pilots-three of them mentioned above no longer fly.
Photos of the aftermath of the July 2022 Russian missile attack on the Kanatove reserve airfield have only now been released by Ukraine's SBU secret service.
The non-airworthy Su-24s were also destroyed in the attack on Kanatove on July 23, 2022.
The Russian attack on Kanatove destroyed two Su-27 fighters.