Ukraine 'downs three Russian helicopters in half an hour' as top spy chief warns Putin faces 'ruin' if his planned new military offensive fails

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PUBLISHED: 10:00 GMT, 24 January 2023 | UPDATED: 12:43 GMT, 24 January 2023

Ukraine has destroyed three Russian helicopters in just half an hour, its air force has claimed. (video)

Last night three Ka-52 choppers became the latest casualties of Vladimir Putin's botched invasion, with an estimated 281 of the Kremlin's helicopters downed since the outbreak of war 11 months ago.

The £12million single-seat aircraft is nicknamed the Black Shark and has been described as Russia's 'deadliest helicopter'. 

Meanwhile, a Ukrainian spy chief has warned that if Russia's new offensive fails, it could be the 'ruin' of president Putin.

 a serviceman checks a Ka-52 attack helicopter in Luhansk this month)

Ukraine has destroyed three Russian helicopters in just half an hour (pictured: a serviceman checks a Ka-52 attack helicopter in Luhansk this month)

The Ka-52's battlefield management system allows it to share data with other aircraft to coordinate attacks. 

The air force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said today: 'For half an hour of anti-aircraft combat from 00:00 to 00:30 on January 24, units of the anti-aircraft missile forces of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine destroyed three Russian Ka-52 attack helicopters in the eastern direction.' 

Kyiv is anticipating an imminent three-pronged attack from the north in Belarus, from Russian strongholds of Donetsk and Luhansk in the east, and in the south from the Crimean peninsula.

If successful, Moscow's troops would encircle defending forces in the pincer movement which would drive back Ukraine after a series of advances in recent months.

But today Vadym Skibitsky, deputy head of Ukraine's military intelligence, told news site Delfi: 'If the major Russian offensive planned for this time fails, it will be the ruin of Russia and Putin.'

US officials say Ukraine is planning to launching its own offensive after a stagnant winter, but have urged the nation to wait until spring once it has received more weaponry.

Ukrainian soldiers ride atop an infantry fighting vehicle during offensive and assault drills in the southern Zaporizhzhia region

A soldier fires a RPG-7 anti-tank grenade launcher during exercises earlier this week

Kyiv officials are preparing for the onslaught after winter brought a halt to the rapid change of territory control. 

Rustem Umerov, a member of Ukraine's negotiating team, told the Daily Beast: 'Russians are encircling us from 240 degrees, attacking from the Black Sea, from Belarus and the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.'

Fighting has already intensified in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia, which had been stagnant for months, in anticipation of the assault.

Officials are expecting a pincer attack from the city and Kharkiv when Putin gives orders for a simultaneous offensive. 

'In the direction of Zaporizhzhia, the intensity of military activity has sharply increased,' Vladimir Rogov said on the Telegram social media platform.

Front lines have been largely frozen in place for two months despite heavy losses on both sides.

Western countries pledged billions of dollars in military aid last week, but have yet to respond to Kyiv's request for hundreds of heavy battle tanks, which it says it needs to break through Russian lines and recover occupied territory.

Many defence experts say the most suitable tanks available in sufficient numbers are German-made Leopards.  

Berlin has so far held back from sending them, or from committing to let allies such as Poland send them.

However, Germany was not blocking the re-export of Leopard tanks to Ukraine, the European Union's top diplomat said on Monday.

Meanwhile, Russian forces pounded Donetsk in Ukraine's east. 

Ukraine repelled 11 attacks, 10 in the Donetsk region, including in the areas of the town of Bakhmut and the village of Klishchiivka to the south, its military said on Tuesday.

Last week, Russia said it had captured Klishchiivka. The invading forces have been pressing for months for control of Bakhmut but with limited success.

Moscow put the chief of its military general staff, Valery Gerasimov, in direct command of the war this month in at least the third shakeup of leadership since the start of the invasion.

In his first interview since taking command, Gerasimov stuck to Moscow's line that its 'special military operation' is a form of defence against a threat from the West.

'Our country and its armed forces are today acting against the entire collective West,' he told the news website Argumenty i Fakty.

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