War in Ukraine

Ukrainian Helicopter Pilot on Missions to Azovstal, Snake Island and His Take on the "Extreme"

Ukrainian Helicopter Pilot on Missions to Azovstal, Snake Island and His Take on the "Extreme"

At the heart of Ukraine's ongoing war, a battle for air superiority has yet to see one clear winner. Amongst the chaos is Yevhen Solovyov, a 33-year-old helicopter pilot whose daring missions have become legendary.

Growing up in a family of aviators, Yevhen Solovyev was destined to begin flying. His passion for aviation led him to become a top-notch pilot in Ukraine, navigating through rigorous tests and trainings. But it's not just skills that define him today—it's his commitment to his country and fellow soldiers. Even if it requires him to get into direct contact with the enemy.

From Azovstal to Snake Island, Solovyev has been at the center of action during Russia’s war against Ukraine. He tells us about his six missions delivering aid to the Azovstal metal refinery, as it was under siege by the Russians. Travelling over one hundred kilometres into enemy-held territory, just to re-supply Azov defenders and evacuate the wounded.

But the risks are immense. Flying over hostile territory means navigating through a storm of bullets and missiles, as the air is almost always contested by enemy fighter jets and air defence. This was the case during the recapture of Snake Island—a strategic military hub in the middle of the Black Sea—where the famous words “Russian warship go fuck yourself” were first uttered. 

But the challenges don't end in the skies. Back on the ground, Solovyov faces the realities of war: the loss of comrades, the toll on mental and physical health and being away from his loved ones back home. His family is no stranger to bad news, Russian media has “confirmed” him dead twice already. 

Solovyov dreams of flying an American-made Apache helicopter. He hopes that one day equipment of such technological superiority will be available for Ukrainian aviators to train on and even use against the Russians. He speaks highly of the helicopter’s effectiveness from large distances and target acquisition capabilities. 

For now, our hero is left to work with what is available—the Soviet-era MI-8 and M-17—which he describes as an amazing helicopter for its time. With it, Solovyov has conducted hundreds of missions in the ten years of Russia’s war against Ukraine. 

As he reflects on his career, Solovyev remarks that During the first part of the invasion in 2014, if one were to be hit by an anti-aircraft gun or a missile flew somewhere nearby—everyone asked the pilot questions, interviewed him and wrote books about him. Now these kinds of dangers are commonplace, an occupational risk that all pilots accept as just part of the job.

This material has been translated and adapted from an interview by which took part in a United24 Media’s project “Profession—warrior.”

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