Ukraine has lost another helicopter in fighting around Slavyansk in East Ukraine, Kiev confirmed on 29 May.
This is now the fourth helicopter shot down by pro-Russian separatists since the conflict in East Ukraine began. The loss is also the largest to date - with 12 personnel killed and one seriously injured when the Mil Mi-8 'Hip' helicopter was downed, the Ukraine National Guard stated.
Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov separately confirmed the loss in a press conference, adding that the head of combat and special training for Ukraine's National Guard, Major General Serhiy Kulchytskiy, was among the fatalities. Turchynov stated that the helicopter had been downed by a Russian-made man-portable air defence system (MANPADS).
Six of those killed were members of the national guard, with the other six being Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs special forces personnel, the national guard stated.
Ukraine has already suffered aircraft losses to MANPADS in East Ukraine, with two Mil Mi-24 'Hind' combat helicopters shot down the systems on 2 May. A third Mi-24 was later shot down on 6 May by ground fire. Several types of MANPADS have been seen in rebel hands in East Ukraine, including Russian-made Igla family systems and Polish-made Grom systems. Ukraine has been widely deploying helicopters against pro-Russian forces, and with it increasing its operational tempo following the election of Petro Poroshenko on 25 May, further such losses are expected.
Meanwhile, on 28 May the Ukraine Ministry of Defence (MoD) stated that its forces had shot down and captured an unmanned aerial vehicle of unknown origin operating over East Ukraine. The Ukraine MoD also denied on 29 May that it had deployed BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launchers in its operations in East Ukraine.