In late August 2020, a Russian pilot reportedly defected to Ukraine in his own helicopter, according to a Ukrainian official. The office of Ukraine’s Presidential Administration spokesperson Andrii Yermak stated that the pilot was in a “safe and secure” place and was receiving “necessary assistance and support.” He was reportedly granted refugee status in Ukraine, and expressed relief that he could now safely live and raise his family away from the “oppressive Russian regime.”
The pilot’s identity has not been revealed, but the official said he had been a member of the Russian army for years and flew a Ka-52 attack helicopter when he defected. This type of helicopter is used mainly for ground attack missions and is heavily armed with modern missiles and cannons. The Ukrainian official suggested that the pilot could have flown to Ukraine with the Ka-52, but this has not been confirmed.
The incident marks the first time a Russian military pilot has defected to Ukraine in recent years. It could further escalate tensions between Russia and Ukraine, which are already high due to the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine.