Ukraine's military intelligence reports that in one day they received as much as 70% more calls to a special hotline for Russian defectors "I want to live" who want to safely quit fighting for Putin.
On August 23, Ukrainian military intelligence (HUR) reported for the first time about a spectacular action to intercept a Russian Mi-8 helicopter carrying parts for fighter jets. What was surprising was that it was piloted by a Russian, who, as it turned out, had joined the Ukrainians. After that, the whole action became famous in the media and there was even a television documentary about it.
The Russian pilot himself said that no one forced him to do it, and he decided to desert with the heavy helicopter so as not to take part in the illegal invasion. It quickly came to light that his parents were also transported to Ukraine, and he received security guarantees and an offer to stay in Ukraine. What is more important, it turned out that for such desertion he would receive a reward of $500,000 from HUR.
On Radio Svoboda, HUR representative Andriy Yusov revealed an interesting effect of the action. As he said, immediately after the action was publicized and the statement of the Mi-8 pilot who deserted was released, there was a wave of reports from Russian deserters to the "I want to live" hotline specially designated for them.
- After the successful operation with the Mi-8 and the pilot, the number of Russian army personnel considering a similar scenario increased. Referrals to the state project "I want to live" increased by about 70 percent in one day, Yusov said on Radio Svoboda.
The escape with a functional helicopter is the most spectacular desertion case of the war in Ukraine. Authorities in Kyiv specifically passed a law in April 2022 offering up to $1 million to Russian military personnel for donated equipment, depending on its type, as a strong incentive.
The case of the captured Mi-8 is the first time a Russian escaped with heavy equipment. Apparently this made some in the Russian army believe in the rewards. Yusov referred to the rumor that there was a reward of two million dollars for a Russian pilot who deserted with a functional MiG-29 fighter.
- This information is more like a legend […], but of course there will be a reward for the MiG – concluded Jusov.
The "I want to live" project is a special hotline for Russian soldiers who want to desert from the army. It was established on August 18, 2022 and serves the purpose of easy, quick and, most importantly, safe transfer of possible prisoners of war to the Ukrainian side. Ukrainians promote it as a way for Russians to survive the war safely in exchange for dying for Putin.
When surrendering at the front, unpleasant accidents can often occur and both sides will suffer. That is why Ukrainians have created a special project "I want to live", which allows any Russian soldier to call and arrange a place and time to meet in case of desertion. This reduces accidents.
In the project, the Ukrainians use many technologies, such as drones, to find Russians who reported to the hotline. In March this year The Ukrainian Coordinating Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War reported that approximately 10,000 Russians contacted the "I want to live" hotline.