Russia vows to target British weapons after helicopter shot down with 'Starstreak' missile

2 April 2022, 08:52 | Updated: 2 April 2022, 14:41

The British-made Starstreak missile is understood to have shot down a Russian attack helicopter
The British-made Starstreak missile is understood to have shot down a Russian attack helicopter. Picture: Alamy/Social media

By Asher McShane

British-made weapons supplied to Ukraine are "legitimate targets," Russia has said after an attack helicopter was shot down by a missile system supplied by the UK.

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Russia's UK ambassador Andrey Kelin said: "All arms supplies are destabilising, particularly those mentioned by [defence secretary Ben] Wallace," according to Russian news agency TASS.

"They exacerbate the situation, making it even bloodier. Apparently, those are new, high-precision weapons.

"Naturally, our armed forces will view them as a legitimate target if those supplies get through the Ukrainian border."

The comments come after a Russian helicopter was blasted out of the sky by Ukrainian forces using a British missile for the first time.

A British-made Starstreak missile is understood to have shot down a Russian helicopter in the weapon's first use in Ukraine - as Kyiv said Russia has lost nearly 18,000 troops since the start of its invasion.

Footage shows a Russian Mi-28N helicopter being shot out of the sky in the Luhansk region, almost cut in two as its tail is struck by the portable missile.

The Starstreak system is a laser-guided missile that travels at more than three times the speed of sound, designed to take down low-flying jets and attack helicopters.

The cutting-edge system fires three tungsten darts towards its target, and the projectile cannot be 'spoofed' by aircraft flares and counter-measures as it is not heat-seeking, instead relying on a twin laser-guidance system.

Britain has sent thousands of NLAW and Javelin anti-tank missile systems, as well as the Starstreak missiles, and body armour, helmets and boots for Ukrainian forces.

The video emerged as Ukrainian troops are continuing to advance against retreating Russians near Kyiv, British defence officials confirmed today.

Read more: Raid on Russian fuel depot 'will hamper stretched invaders'

The Russian withdrawal includes near Hostomel airport near the capital, which has seen fierce fighting since the start of the invasion.

The MoD said “in the east of Ukraine, Ukrainian forces have secured a key route in eastern Kharkiv after heavy fighting.”

The Ukrainian town of Bucha has been recaptured by defending forces, and Kyiv has said that 17,700 Russian troops have been killed since the start of the fighting.

Ukrainian journalists have claimed that Russian troops have been retreating “en masse” from around Kyiv.

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Oleksiy Sorokin said Bucha and Hostomel were among “tens of other towns and villages” that are now under the Ukrainian flag.

However footage appeared to show that Russian troops had been killing civilians as they fled Bucha.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned his people that retreating Russian forces were creating "a complete disaster" outside the capital as they leave mines across "the whole territory", even around homes and corpses.

He issued the warning as the humanitarian crisis in the encircled city of Mariupol deepened and the Kremlin accused the Ukrainians of launching a helicopter attack on a fuel depot on Russian soil.

Ukraine denied responsibility for the blast, but if Moscow's claim is confirmed, it would be the war's first known attack in which Ukrainian aircraft penetrated Russian airspace.

"Certainly, this is not something that can be perceived as creating comfortable conditions for the continuation of the talks," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Russia continued withdrawing some of its ground forces from areas around Kyiv after saying earlier this week it would reduce military activity near the Ukrainian capital and the northern city of Chernihiv.

"They are mining the whole territory. They are mining homes, mining equipment, even the bodies of people who were killed," Mr Zelensky said in his nightly video address to the nation.

"There are a lot of trip wires, a lot of other dangers."

He urged residents to wait to resume their normal lives until they are assured that the mines have been cleared and the danger of shelling has passed.

While the Russians kept up their bombardment around Kyiv and Chernihiv, Ukrainian troops exploited the retreat on the ground by mounting counterattacks and retaking a number of towns and villages.

Ukraine and its allies warned that the Kremlin is not de-escalating to promote trust at the bargaining table, as it claimed, but instead resupplying and shifting its troops to the country's east.

Those movements appear to be preparation for an intensified assault on the mostly Russian-speaking Donbas region in the country's east, which includes Mariupol.

Mr Zelensky warned of difficult battles ahead as the Russians redeploy troops. "We are preparing for an even more active defence," he said.

He did not say anything about the latest round of talks, which took place on Friday by video. At a round of talks earlier in the week, Ukraine said it would be willing to abandon a bid to join Nato and declare itself neutral - Moscow's chief demand - in return for security guarantees from several other countries.

The invasion has left thousands dead and driven more than four million refugees from Ukraine.