yesterday, major clashes took place in and around the village of Oktyabrs'ke near the city of Kramatorsk in Eastern Ukraine, as the Kiev Junta's punitive operation against the people of the Donbass continued unabated, a few days after the Referendum for independence held in Donetsk and Lugansk. Kiev's renewed offensive against Kramatorsk saw the involvement of infantry, several armored vehicles, self-propelled artillery/mortars...and well...a number of White Mil Mi-24 combat helicopters with clearly visible U.N. markings on the fuselage. At first they were videotaped hovering in the sky, then resting on a field with several troops deployed around them in what appeared to be a farm or rural compound in the vicinity of Oktyabrs'ke.
But as incredible as it may have appeared, these machines were surely not part of some sort of a providential U.N. "Peacekeeping" mission, for their offensive purpose was clear in spite of their unmistakable White paint that is the hallmark of vehicles used by the United Nations. As can be seen in the following video, courtesy of Lifenews, the Mil Mi-24 has landed on a field, several troops have disembarked, and seem to be - very casually - "securing the area" around the helicopter. From a distance, it could almost look as if none other than U.N. Secretary Ban Ki Moon just landed together with his team to greet the locals, announce a negotiated truce with Kiev, and call for a withdrawal of the Junta's troops.
Nope...that would be wishful thinking. The facts on the ground and in the sky paint unfortunately a very different scenario. The use of Ukraine's "Peacekeeping" choppers engaged in combat operations, still sporting a white, highly weathered finish and the U.N. symbols represents a violation of the agreement signed with the United Nations by Ukrainian authorities. Under the agreement, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations of the U.N. allows countries contributing to a Peacekeeping operation to provide equipment and vehicles with U.N. markings only when they are used within the framework of a specific U.N. mission. When and if these vehicles are withdrawn and repatriated or reassigned, it is the issuing country's responsibility to repaint the vehicle and apply the appropriate markings on the fuselage, thus making sure that it is not flying under the auspices and mandate of the U.N.
It is now clear that in the case of the Mil Mi-24s and Mil Mi-8s, the Kiev Junta decided to repatriate the helicopters by withdrawing them from U.N. Peacekeeping missions that were underway in Africa. Ukraine was indeed flying 2x Mil Mi-24s providing fire support and 1x Mil Mi-8 providing transport and logistics in support of the U.N. contingent engaged in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Another Mil Mi-24 had been deployed with the U.N. forces in Liberia as of March 26th 2014.
It now seems that the Kiev Junta, either as a diversionary tactic, or maybe rather out of sheer desperation, has recalled these helicopters in a haste from Africa, and has reassigned them to be used in the punitive operation against the East of the country. With respect to this, it is important to mention that Ukraine's fleet of Mil Mi-24 combat helicopters has literally shrunk to a handful of units, so the fact that former U.N. vehicles are now being deployed in Eastern Ukraine may well be a sign that there are very few of them left. Officially, as of May 3rd 2014, the Ukrainian Air Force appeared to have about 43 Mil Mi-24P/V/PM combat helicopters, but because of insufficient funding and maintenance, the effective number of airworthy units was down to about 20. Then 3 out of those 20 were flying for the U.N. and 3 others have already been shot down when hostilities broke out in the East of the country. Simple math would bring down the total number of airworthy units to 14. Still, it is important to point out that an "airworthy" unit does not necessarily mean it is combat-ready and capable of reliably firing and delivering its weapons and ordnance. We can therefore conclude that the real number of combat-ready Mil Mi-24s is much less, maybe between 6 and 10 units at best, hence the (unwise - and, from an U.N. standpoint - illegal) decision to deploy them as part of the punitive operation.
From "Peacekeeping" to "Peacebreaking" (as a reminder, this is all in clear violation of the Geneva accords undersigned by the Kiev Junta) - such is the unlucky fate of Ukraine's white Mil Mi-24s...