The only two pilots to survive were badly injured and taken prisoner by Russian forces. In a lengthy interview with CNN, the two pilots alleged that they were subjected to more than a month of abuse and threats while in Russian custody, before being part of a prisoner exchange.

Read here The story of a wounded soldier about the evacuation from Azovstal

Oleksii Chyzh, 29, and his friend and comrade-in-arms Ivan Pepeliashko, 33, had flown missions every day since the Russian invasion began in February, despite the immense danger from Russian missiles and anti-aircraft batteries.

On March 8, an assignment took them north, near the city of Chernihiv. All four helicopters in the squadron completed the mission. But as they were returning to their base near Kyiv, Chyzh noticed new enemy positions beneath them.

It was too late. Three of the helicopters were hit by enemy fire and crashed; Chyzh and Pepeliashko were the only survivors.