Video footage of a Russian Mi-8 helicopter being shot down in Donetsk Oblast became widely shared on Twitter this week. The footage, first shared on Telegram in late October, shows a Russian Mi-8 helicopter flying low along a country road in Donetsk.
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) October 31, 2022
Seconds into the video, a rocket can be seen headed straight toward the helicopter before it erupts into flames and begins to descend. The helicopter’s rotors continue moving as the helicopter slowly descends and eventually crashes. The video then shows the helicopter on the ground in flames with large plumes of black smoke billowing from the crash site.
The video zooms out, showing only the large plume of black smoke. It appears to have been recorded by a rotary-blade UAV.
The clip was also accompanied by dramatic music, as many videos of this kind have been throughout the conflict. Both Russian and Ukrainian propagandists tend to accompany videos with music, captions, and even memes, in an attempt to tease opponents and emphasize the military strength of each side.
The original Telegram post that shared the video said that the attack was conducted by the Ukrainian 54th Mechanized Brigade. Military researcher Rob Lee, who shared the video on Twitter, suggested that the weapon used to take down the helicopter was likely a MANPADS.
A slightly longer video was also shared by an Officer of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which shows more details of the crash. The helicopter rolls as it hits the ground.
— Анатолій Штефан (Штірліц) (@Shtirlitz53) October 31, 2022
Additional video footage shared by the same account shows the view from the ground. The wreckage shows the helicopter torn apart and still on fire, along with the bodies of the pilots lying on the ground. The video appears to have been recorded on a cell phone.
Reports also suggested that the helicopter belonged to the Wagner Group, the controversial private military contractor that provides the Russian military with support from mercenaries.
Location tracking accounts also confirmed that the helicopter was traveling north at 48.79408, 38.27866, the border between Luhansk Oblast and Donetsk Oblast. The rocket was launched from the West, indicating that the attack came from a Ukrainian position somewhere in Donetsk Oblast.
In recent days, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised the 54th Separate mechanized Brigade, thanking them for their “bravery and steadfastness in holding the lines in the Siversk direction.” Zelenskyy made the comments during a nightly address.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.