In March-May 2022, helicopters of the 16th separate army aviation brigade regularly flew to Azovstal with cargo for the soldiers of the Azov regiment and carried out the evacuation of the wounded.

For the first time, the Ukrainian military told The Times about these heroic missions.

The planners from the GUR of the Ministry of Defense designed these missions so defiantly and desperately that the Russians did not understand that these were Ukrainian helicopters and took them for their own.

In this way, it was possible to make several sorties.

Ukrainian pilots carried tons of cargo, delivering Starlink satellites, ammunition and medical supplies, and evacuating the wounded.

They flew from their base in Dnipro at a speed of 250 km/h at a height of 3 meters above the ground.

Sometimes watching the Russian occupiers brush their teeth in the morning.

Fighters of the "Azov" regiment climbed aboard each helicopter, knowing that most likely none of them would return to Mariupol.

From March 21 to May 11, 2022, 15 helicopters and 45 crew members took part in almost 30 rescue missions in Azovstal.

6 flights were completed successfully.

But more than 20 - no.

Of the 15 helicopters that participated in the operations, three were shot down.

34-year-old Yuriy, 38-year-old Boris and 52-year-old Vyacheslav are pilots who never returned home.

When the Ukrainian side realized that it would not be possible to break through to Mariupol, the flights were stopped.

This led to the order to surrender "Azovstal" on May 20.

It will be recalled that for Ukrainians "Azovstal" became a gloomy but powerful symbol of resistance, sheltering about 2,600 soldiers and civilians, while the fortress-like object was destroyed by Russian bombardments for weeks.

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