The Kremlin has released footage of a Russian helicopter squad training in Syria on how to winch injured troops from places too dangerous to land.
The Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the main objective of the training session was to practice rescuing wounded soldiers from a hovering helicopter.
Footage of the exercise shows a Soviet-era Mi 8 chopper using a winch to lower and raise a trooper while a machine gun crew sees off a simulated attack.
The Russian MoD said on May 17: “Footage of an exercise with units of the Russian Armed Forces in Syria to evacuate the wounded using a Mi-8 helicopter hovering above the ground.
“During the exercise, the group, which included pilots, technicians and reconnaissance soldiers, practiced working in teams.
“One soldier went down to the ground using the winch. The lift capacity of the winch is enough to support the weight of two fully-equipped fighters.
“Meanwhile, the descending soldier could only communicate with technicians onboard the helicopter by using gestures.
“The whole operation took place under the cover of sharpshooters in the Mi-8, who were ready to open fire on ground targets.”
Russian servicemen Kirill said: “We worked out how to evacuate the wounded when it is not possible to land the helicopter on the ground.
“For example, in a mined area, when there are reservoirs, mountainous regions, and other places where the chopper cannot land and we need to rescue a wounded soldier.”
Mi-8 helicopter pilot Sergei said: “The pilot’s main task when descending to an unmade platform is to keep everyone safe and in place and prevent a lateral roll.
“The whole crew has to take into account the wind speed and propeller angle.
The update comes after Moscow claimed a strategic victory through the fall of the port city of Mariupol.
Russian authorities said they plan to tear down Azovstal itself and turn Mariupol into a “resort city”, according to the Institute for the Study of War.
The Kremlin also says that more than 900 Ukrainian fighters from the Azovstal metallurgical plant have been taken to a former prison colony in a Russian-controlled part of Donetsk.
Russia’s defense ministry said 771 Ukrainian fighters from the steelworks had surrendered in the last 24 hours, taking the total to 1,730, and 80 of the fighters were wounded.
But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine an “absolute failure” and said Russian leaders were afraid to acknowledge “that catastrophic mistakes were made at the highest military and state level”. Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman at the same time said at least 231 children have died and 427 were injured since February 24.
Zelenskyy also said that said Ukraine is determined to reclaim control over the southern cities of Kherson, Melitopol, Berdiansk, Enerhodar and Mariupol, now occupied by Russian troops.
Elsewhere, G7 partners are set to meet in Germany later today (Thursday, May 19) to find a way to fix Ukraine’s devastated finances.
On the ground, Ukrainian forces have retaken villages around the north-eastern city of Kharkiv, but Russian forces have advanced slowly in the east of the country.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces claim to have killed about 28,500 Russian soldiers since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24.
They also say that between February 24 and May 19, the enemy lost 1,254 tanks, 3,063 armored fighting vehicles, 595 artillery systems, 199 multiple launch rocket systems, 93 anti-aircraft warfare systems, 203 aircraft, 167 helicopters, 2,157 motor vehicles and fuel tankers, 13 ships/boats, 455 unmanned aerial vehicles, 43 pieces of special units and 103 cruise missiles.