Two Dozen Russian Helicopters Downed in One Day with ‘Secret Weapon’—Kyiv

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Ukrainian forces destroyed 26 Russian helicopters in a single day using an unknown long-range weapon supplied by Kyiv’s allies, Volodymyr Zelensky has claimed.

During a press conference with journalists in Latvia on Thursday, the Ukrainian president remained light on details when discussing the use of the mystery weapon, not disclosing which country had provided the system, how long it had been in operation or when it had been used against the helicopters.

“Partners have provided us with some long-range weapons,” he said, according to a translation by Ukrainian news outlet RBC. “I won’t say what, but our partners will understand.

“With it, we destroyed 26 helicopters in a day, and 12 planes that took off and attacked with missiles, against which these systems were working. We destroyed 12 at once.”

Main image, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a press conference in Riga, Latvia, on January 11, 2024. Inset, a Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopter is seen in Lviv, Ukraine, on August 9, 2023. During the press conference, Zelensky said 26 Russian helicopters had been taken out in a single day.
GINTS IVUSKANS/Alex Babenko/AFP/Getty Images

Newyork Verified approached the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense via email for comment on Friday.

According to the Ukrainian Armed Force’s own tally, they have not taken out any Russian helicopters since October 19, when they say they destroyed one—so it is unclear if the 26 referenced by Zelensky were destroyed recently but were previously undisclosed, or if they were destroyed over three months ago.

Despite the information in the Ukrainian Armed Force’s tally, Kyiv’s forces said they took out a Russian Mi-8 transport helicopter in early December.

The Ukrainian president went on to stress that the weapons system he was referring to was part of the nation’s air defense systems, rather than being used to attack Russian targets, according to a translation by news agency Interfax. Ukraine has been accused by Russia of carrying out attacks within Russian territory.

Kyiv has been able to make deft use of long-range missile systems donated by Western allies, such as the U.S.-made Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) and British Storm Shadow missiles—which Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently said were “raising the stakes” of the conflict.

In mid-October, Ukraine used ATACMS missiles to destroy nine helicopters in a nighttime raid on two military airfields in eastern and southern Ukraine.

The U.K.’s Royal Air Force said that Moscow had 899 helicopters at its disposal at the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Some of its aerial loses have seemingly been at its own hands, as analysts and military bloggers paint the Russian military as disorganized and prone to tactical mistakes.

In May, Russian air defenses were thought to be responsible for shooting down three helicopters and two fighter jets near the Ukrainian border. At the time, Russian officials told state media that engine malfunctions had been to blame.