Russian Wagner mercenary shot down two Russian helicopters and IL-22 plane during mutiny

The events, which began on Saturday, appeared to take everyone but the battle-hardened mercenary group by surprise. Wagner forces rapidly took control of Rostov, one of Russia’s largest cities, where they were met with minimal resistance from local security forces and occupied the regional military headquarters.

They continued to march on Moscow before Prigozhin ordered his mercenaries to turn back 200km (124 miles) from the capital. He agreed to go into exile in Belarus after brokering a deal with the country’s President Alexander Lukashenko.

The mutiny appears to be over, but the fate of the mercenary group that has proven so influential in Ukraine, as well as Syria and many African countries, remains to be seen.

Helicopter shot down

According to Ukraine’s Euromaidan Press, three Russian electric warfare helicopters, a Ka-52 helicopter, an Mi-8 helicopter, a transport helicopter and an Il-22 plane were shot down during the mutiny.

Images of the wreck of a KA-52 helicopter, still smoking from the crash, were published on Telegram by Kirill Fedorov, a pro-Russian blogger. He identified it as having been shot down in the Voronezh region—an area the Wagner Group had been probing.

Russian mercenary telegram channels said they had shot down a fourth government helicopter.

Russian propagandist Vladimir Solovyov has lamented a “tragedy” for the nation’s air force after what was believed to be one of the worst days for aircraft losses its military has endured since the invasion of Ukraine began.

Viktor Alksnis, a former Soviet politician, identified an Il-22 plane as having been shot down. He also estimated that between 17 and 22 people had been killed in five of the helicopters downed.

Wagner Group mercenaries,  seeking to overthrow Russia’s government, said they shot down a military helicopter that tried to prevent them from driving to Moscow.

Images on social media show a Russian helicopter crashed into a field in Voronezh region. The white “invasion Z” is marked on the helicopter’s tail boom.

Russian propagandist Ilya Tumanov also confirmed on his influential Fighterbomber channel the crash of the Mi-35 Hind attack helicopter and two Mi-8MTPR electronic warfare helicopters.

The Wagner Group describes itself as a “private military company”, but now the Russian government seems to be taking steps to rein it in.

The Wagner Group is elite Russian troops founded in 2014 after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and started providing support to pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. The mercenary organization, staffed by veterans of the Russian armed forces, has fought in Libya, Syria, the Central African Republic and Mali, among other countries.

Russian state-sponsored private military contractor linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin. Prigozhin is a Russian businessman indicted in the United States for meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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