Ukraine ran helicopter supply runs under the cover of night to resupply Azovstal.
Mi-8 Hip helicopters flew through dense Russian air defenses to quietly deliver supplies and fresh troops to the defenders of Azovstal, and take back their wounded.
These supply runs were kept quiet for months. Until the Siege of Azovstal came to an end last week.
In total, there were seven missions. Most using two helicopters, one using four.
Of the 16 helicopters involved, two were downed during missions. A third helicopter, coming to their rescue, was also destroyed.
One downed Mi-8 made it to Chinese news in March.
These pilots risked their own lives
To save sons, daughters, husbands, wives. Bringing them food, water and medical supplies. Some paid the ultimate price.
Ukraine kept quiet about the supply runs for months. Now President Zelensky openly speaks of the pilot’s bravery:
“How many pilots gave their lives to bring everything there, from weapons to water? And how many wounded they took from there? A large number of these people died heroically.”
For nearly three months, Ukraine held the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. Surrounded on all sides and under constant bombardment.
But as their food, water, medicine and ammunition ran short, and the number of critically wounded increased. The situation grew increasingly desperate.
Until finally, the order was given to end the siege.
Still, by holding out for so long, the Azovstal defenders were able to pin down 12 Russian battalions near Mariupol. Forces Russia could have been used to attack Ukraine elsewhere.
Without these helicopter resupply missions, without these heroic pilots, without their sacrifice the Azovstal defenders wouldn’t have held out this long.