Friday 1 April 2022

The Mystery of the Helicopters of Mariupol

Wreckage of a Ukrainian Mi8 helicopter shot down by air defence systems manned by militiamen of the Russian-speaking separatist Donetsk People's Republic (DPR)

The Russian armed forces have essentially defeated the Ukrainian forces in this city on the Azov Sea.

The battles have been ferocious, but the Ukrainian forces which were led by the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion have now retreated to a stronghold, the Steel Works Industrial centre known as the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works where they are making a last stand.

It is a massive complex of great economic importance to Mariupol. I am sure that the Russians will want to leave the plant intact rather than bomb it to ruins in order to kill the Azov members. Therefore, they may opt to lay siege until the occupants run out of food and supplies. Or they may enter the plant and destroy the occupants via hand-to-hand fighting.

The Russians are basically "mopping up" in Mariupol using a large-sized contingent of Chechen forces. I have no doubt that the Azov soldiers are being ruthlessly liquidated.

Please note that although the Azov personnel are fanatical and dedicated fighters, they have also used citizens of Mariupol as "human shields". They have placed military equipment on top of buildings such as hospitals and they did their utmost to prevent civilians from leaving the city. This has been corroborated by audio-visual footage and in the Greek press by ethnic Greek Ukrainian nationals.

Now, the interesting thing is that a series of helicopter missions have headed to Mariupol in recent days. These Mi8 helicopters have flown during the night at low altitude in an attempt to evade radar.

In one incident an approaching helicopter was shot down, and in another more recent incident, two helicopters actually landed at the steelworks but were shot down when they took off. One was destroyed while the other crash landed and two prisoners were taken.

The downings of the helicopters are reportedly the work of militiamen of the Russian-speaking separatist Donetsk People's Republic (DPR).

There are uncorroborated rumours that among those trapped at the steel works are NATO military advisers. Different reports mention different nationalities such as British, American, Polish and French.

It is worth noting that military instructors from NATO countries including Britain were among the dead after Russian precision missile strikes on military training establishments in western Ukraine were carried out.

Another uncorroborated rumour claims that French President Emmanuel Macron telephoned President Vladimir Putin to "beg" Putin to allow French military advisors "safe passage".

None of this can presently be corroborated but the shooting down of helicopters headed to the steelworks is true. There are gruesome photographs of the aftermath.

Among those allegedly killed are the Azov Commander, Major Denys Prokopenko and the Deputy Commander Lieutenant Svyatoslav Palamar (call sign Kalina).

The first reports were that the helicopters were sent to evacuate the Azov military leadership, which of course is plausible. In fact, it is the most likely explanation.

However, the uncorroborated rumours of attempts to rescue NATO military advisors adds a fascinating dimension to a quite compelling war story.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2022).

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

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