Dramatic footage shows the moment a Russian colonel crashes in his helicopter in a 'fireball' after being hit by a Ukrainianmissile.
The military helicopter carrying Lt-Col Sergey Gundorov, 51, was struck by a portable surface-to-air missile near Volnovakha in the Donbas.
Vladimir Putin lost his 55th colonel in the Russia-Ukraine war as the stricken Mi-35 touched the ground before cartwheeling over a narrow strip of woodland, becoming a fireball and crashing in a field.
Flames and black smoke are seen from the explosion as a second Russian helicopter is seen firing decoy flares and apparently escapes unscathed.
A Russian account on the death of the high-ranked pilot, who has had previously won three Orders of Courage, first-class said: “Bright eternal memory to the Hero who left on his last flight.
"Pilots don't die, they fly into the sky…The best men are leaving us.”
He died after completing a “combat mission” on 16 June but his loss is only now acknowledged, it has been claimed.
Among condolences to the married father of two, were family pictures showing him with his sons and wife Anzhela, alongside a message from his teenage younger son Ilya saying simply: “Love you Dad.”
His death follows the loss of two colonels announced on the same day last week — highly decorated Colonel Sergei Krasnikov, 56, who had volunteered to rejoin the forces to go to war, and Colonel Sergei Postnov – in his 40s.
However, Russia's overall losses are believed to be in excess of 30,000, with some estimates of nearer to 50,000. These figures include at least 11 generals.
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The news comes after Britain’s chief of defence staff claimed that Russia "has already lost the war."
Admiral Sir Antony David Radakin, the UK’s highest-ranking military officer, says Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was a “dreadful mistake” and while the fighting is not yet over Russia has already “strategically lost” the war.
“Russia will never take control of Ukraine,” Sir Tony said, adding that it would end up a “more diminished power” as a result.
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