Moscow calls U.S. delivery of Russian-made Mil Mi-17 helicopters to Ukraine’ illegal’

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

Since Russia invaded eastern Ukraine, several countries have delivered to the Ukrainian forces Soviet military equipment that they had kept since the end of the Cold War so that they could appropriate it quickly since they already had them.

Hence the pressure that may have been put on Poland, Slovakia or even Bulgaria to convince them to hand over their MiG-29 “Fulcrum” fighter planes to Kyiv, given that it would take a long time to teach Ukrainian pilots to use Western-designed aircraft.

However, in 2011, the United States acquired Mil MI-17V5 “Hip” helicopters from Russia to reinforce the Afghan National Army [ANA]. 

Mi-17V-5 helicopters, including those manufactured by the Kazan Helicopter Plant, were supplied to the United States for transfer to the Afghan security forces as military assistance. Two contracts for 33 and 30 vehicles, respectively, were completed in 2011-2014. The total volume of transactions amounted to about $1.1 billion.

The Mi-17 is one of the export versions of the Mi-8MT helicopter, which is an upgraded version of the Mi-8. This is a multi-purpose helicopter, which belongs to the medium weight class.

Then, in 2017, a program was launched to replace them with American models, in this case, the UH-60A Black Hawks.

Since the return of the Taliban to Kabul, the Pentagon found itself with few Mi-17s on its hands, some of them having been recovered during the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Before the Russian offensive, five examples that had been sent to Ukraine for repairs were officially transferred by the United States to the Ukrainian forces within the framework of the “Excess Defense Articles” [EDA] program.

In mid-April, the White House announced its intention to deliver 11 additional Mi-17s to Ukraine as a new military aid package. However, shortly after this announcement, it was reported that the U.S. administration had given up providing these helicopters to Kyiv. This turned out to be false since these devices are indeed on the list of equipment provided to the Ukrainian forces published by the State Department on April 25.

Be that as it may, not everything is permitted when it comes to selling military equipment… Thus, a country wishing to transfer arms to a third party must request authorization from the country that sold them. This is what the Russian Federal Service for Foreign Military-Technical Cooperation [FSVTS] did not fail to recall… two weeks after Washington’s announcements.

Thus, via a press release published on April 27, the FSVTS said it “protests against any illegal transfer to Ukraine […] of Russian [or Soviet]-made weapons and military equipment, including helicopters supplied by JSC Rosoboronexport as part of a major contract with the Pentagon, concluded in 2011”.

And, attaching a copy of the contract signed in 2011 [whose authenticity cannot be verified], the FSVTS recalls that the United States had committed to transfer these helicopters to the Afghan army… And that only Afghanistan was entitled to “re-export” them to a third country after having requested permission from Russia.

l , We, the United States Army, on behalf Of the Government Of the United States of America, herewith declare that the following items delivered by the Joint Stock Company’ Rosoboronexport”, Russian Federation, 107076. Moscow, Stromynka St., 27, under Mod. P00006 (1384074140797), dated June 16 2013, to the Contract No. W58RGZ-11-C-0072 840741 10266) of May 26. 2011 will be transferred to the Islamic Republic Of Afghanistan for the inventory Of the National Army of Afghanistan.

, I, the undersigned, being a representative of the Department of the Army of the United States of America, declare that such helicopters, equipment and documentation delivered or provided under this contract shall be used for the declared purposes only and shall not be re-exported or transferred to any third country other than the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan without the approval of the Russian Federation.

The acceptance was signed by the Department of the Army, Office of the assistant secretary of Army, Acquisition logistics and Technology, 103 Army Pentagon.

“The decision of the United States to supply the aforementioned ‘Afghan’ helicopters to Ukraine flagrantly violates the foundations of international law and the provisions of the Russian-American contractual documents,” concluded the FSVTS. It remains to be seen whether Moscow will take the case to an International Court of Arbitration to settle this “commercial” dispute… Which is unlikely.

There is an issue with the repair of the helicopters in the Ukrainian service. In July 2021, the U.S. was forced to allow the Russian indirect participation in the repairs of the Mi-17 helicopters. The participation included “the purchase of components from Russian manufacturers.”

“None of these helicopters are sent to Russia for repair, but there may be some indirect Russian involvement in the sense that repair contractors purchase components and [order] maintenance from the original manufacturers of this equipment,” TASS quoted a Pentagon official as saying.

Pentagon has not addressed the issue as it may be the last time it will be in U.S. ownership.


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