Thursday, June 23, 2022

‘The impossible’: Ukraine’s Secret, Deadly Rescue Missions; Drone strike hits Russian refinery near Ukraine; Ukrainian forces mount Snake Island counterattack against Russia; Stephen Zabielski is the second American killed fighting in Ukraine, LIVE UPDATES and MORE

AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko
‘The impossible’: Ukraine’s secret, deadly rescue missions:
As was his habit before each flight, the veteran Ukrainian army pilot ran a hand along the fuselage of his Mi-8 helicopter, caressing the heavy transporter’s metal skin to bring luck to him and his crew.
They would need it. Their destination — a besieged steel mill in the brutalized city of Mariupol — was a death trap. Some other crews didn’t make it back alive.
Still, the mission was vital, even desperate. Ukrainian troops were pinned down, their supplies running low, their dead and injured stacking up. Their last-ditch stand at the Azovstal mill was a growing symbol of Ukraine’s defiance in the war against Russia. They could not be allowed to perish.
The 51-year-old pilot — identified only by his first name, Oleksandr — flew just the one mission to Mariupol, and he considered it the most difficult flight of his 30-year-career. He took the risk, he said, because he didn’t want the Azovstal fighters to feel forgotten.
In the charred hell-scape of that plant, in an underground bunker-turned-medical station that provided shelter from death and destruction above, word started reaching the wounded that a miracle might be coming. Among those told that he was on the list for evacuation was a junior sergeant who’d been shredded by mortar rounds, butchering his left leg and forcing its amputation above the knee.
“Buffalo” was his nom de guerre. He had been through so much, but one more deadly challenge loomed: escape from Azovstal.
A series of clandestine, against-the-odds, terrain-hugging, high-speed helicopter missions to reach the Azovstal defenders in March, April and May are being celebrated in Ukraine as among the most heroic feats of military derring-do of the four-month war. Some ended in catastrophe; each grew progressively riskier as Russian air defense batteries caught on.
The full story of the seven resupply and rescue missions has yet to be told. But from exclusive interviews with two wounded survivors; a military intelligence officer who flew on the first mission; and pilot interviews provided by the Ukrainian army, The Associated Press has pieced together the account of one of the last flights, from the perspective of both the rescuers and the rescued. --->READ MORE HERE
Drone strike hits Russian refinery near Ukraine:
A drone strike caused a fire at a refinery in southwestern Russia near the border with Ukraine on Wednesday, but no one was hurt and the blaze was contained quickly, officials said.
The fire engulfed industrial equipment at the Novoshakhtinsk oil processing plant in the Rostov-on-Don region. The authorities said that dozens of firefighters extinguished the flames in a half-hour and no one was hurt.
The refinery said in a statement that the fire was caused by a strike carried out by two drones, describing it as a “terrorist” act. It didn’t give further details, but the state news agency Tass said that two Ukrainian drones flew over the plant and one of them slammed into a heat exchanger, triggering the fire.
Ukrainian officials haven’t claimed responsibility for the drone strike.
A video posted on a messaging app channel showed a drone flying by and hitting what was purported to be the refinery, a giant plume of smoke rising into the sky. The authenticity of the video couldn’t be independently verified. --->READ MORE HERE
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