The crew of a Russian Mi-26 army helicopter operating out of the Eastern Military District Army Aviation airbase came to the aid of an unlikely customer in early November – a baby polar bear that had become separated from its mother. The helicopter was engaged in a routine transport flight in the Arctic zone when one of its crew caught sight of the lone cub wandering on the Chukotka shore. The crew swept the area a few times, but could find no trace of the animal’s mother, and decided that it was in the cub’s best interests to pick it up so that it would not starve to death. The crew landed and separated to search for the cub, which was exhausted when they found it and showed no aggression. It was given some warm food, and then the crew took it onboard the aircraft. The animal was reportedly very calm during the flight, wandering around and making friends with its rescuers. The crew named it Umka after a cartoon polar bear popular in Russia.
The crew subsequently handed Umka over to environmental protection authorities, and the cub was taken to a wildlife reserve on Wrangel Island.