Moscow - Two Russian men on Thursday managed to hijack a helicopter at gunpoint and then break their friend out of jail by lowering a rope ladder over a prison colony, investigators said.
"According to preliminary information, the escaped inmate was convicted of murder and had served half his sentence," the Investigative Committee said in a statement.
Investigators did not explain how precisely the helicopter heist occurred, saying only that the two men threatened the crew of a helicopter owned by a private company in the central region of Vologda, north of Moscow.
After ordering the crew to fly to the penal colony, the men "lowered a rope ladder and a man climbed aboard".
The Izvestia daily said prison guards opened fire on the helicopter, which it identified as a Mi-2 light armoured transport that was once used by the Soviet army and has since gone over to civilian use.
The helicopter escaped and eventually landed near the region's main city of Vologda.
Hours later, the head of the prison service reported that police had captured a man believed to be the convicted murderer after wounding him in a gun fight.
The Lifenews.ru website said the man had tried to shoot himself after realising that he was surrounded, while his two friends had fled in different directions.
This is believed to be the first jail break of its kind reported in post-Soviet Russia.