Info about future hostilities in Ukraine brought to attention of soldiers by Russian command back in Jan 2022 – captured Russian pilot
Information about the future participation in hostilities on the territory of Ukraine was brought to the attention of the Russian command in January 2022, a captured Russian pilot, deputy commander of the 47th bomber aviation regiment of the Russian Federation Maxim Krishtop said.
"In January 2022, the regiment commander informed us about the future participation in hostilities on the territory of Ukraine. After that, the delivery of ammunition and aviation weapons to the territory of our airfield began. In parallel with this, we started training in flights at extremely low altitudes, according to overcoming air defense, tactical launches of air-radar missiles," Krishtop said at a press conference at Interfax-Ukraine.
According to him, this was officially presented as preparation and participation in the joint Russian-Belarusian exercises "Allied Resolve 2022."
"After they were completed, in which we did not take part, we continued to prepare for hostilities. The combat order to launch air strikes on the territory of Ukraine came to the unit on February 23 from 18.00 to 20.00. The regiment commander issued a corresponding order - to strike at Ukraine, starting from February 24," he said.
Answering a clarifying question, "Is it true that, at least a month in advance, his air regiment knew about the impending invasion of Ukraine?" Krishtop answered positively, specifying that "specifically in January 2022, the specific dates for the invasion were not brought up."
He said that from February 24 to March 5 he managed to make three sorties. Two of them, with the aim of defeating the forces of the Ukrainian army south of Balakleya and destroying an armored column near Izyum with the help of three-tonne high-explosive bombs, were completely carried out by him. The third sortie was made to bombard Kharkiv, with four tonnes of high-explosive bombs on board, but was shot down by Ukrainian air defense.
The prisoner of war said the high-explosive bombs were unguided [free-fall], caliber 250 and 500 kilogram, with a radius of destruction of 60 meters. "We did not use guided air bombs with a laser guidance system, since the command did not set such a task...," he said.
According to major of the 43rd Separate Naval Assault Aviation Regiment Alexei Golovensky, the very order to start the Russian operation to invade Ukraine and further seize the state was brought to the unit on February 23.
"... but throughout February, exercises of the navy, ships in the entire waters of the Black and Azov seas were conducted, there were missile firing, and we, as naval aviation, provided them with intelligence. Accordingly, the aircraft of our regiment [by February 24] already were ready. All personnel were on high alert," he said.
From March 24 to March 5, Golovensky carried out seven sorties in order to identify radio-technical and radio-emitting air defense systems for their further destruction.
He also said that during the exercises, the command conveyed to the military "false information about the weakness of the Ukrainian air defense forces and outdated equipment."
"I was shot down by the air defense of Ukraine and taken prisoner in Mykolaiv region. It follows that my leadership simply sent me, like bait, to death, without bringing me anything. The air defense on the territory of Ukraine works perfectly. Why are they sending us like gun fodder, incomprehensible," Golovensky said.
He also said he has relatives in Poltava region in Ukraine.