Russian pilot who defected to Ukraine ‘shot dead’

Connie Queline

Russian pilot who defected to Ukraine ‘shot dead’

EPA

The body of a man who was shot dead in Spain is believed to be that of a Russian helicopter pilot who defected to Ukraine last year.

In August, Maxim Kuzminov flew a helicopter into Ukrainian territory, where he handed himself in.

Spanish police have not publicly confirmed the identity of the man, who was killed near Alicante last week.

However, Ukrainian intelligence confirmed Mr Kuzminov’s death on Monday.

A spokesperson told the Ukrainian outlet Ukrayinska Pravda: “We confirm the fact of his death… He decided to move to Spain rather than remain here.

“What we know is that he invited his ex-spouse to join him and then he was found shot to death.”

Spanish authorities told the BBC that the victim may have been living under a false identity.

According to Spanish news agency Efe, Mr Kuzminov’s body was found near a property in the town of Villajoyosa on Spain’s eastern coast alongside documentation matching his nationality, but with a different name.

A burnt-out car apparently used by the attackers was found near the scene of the crime, the intelligence agency’s press service told the outlet.

Mr Kuzminov reportedly contacted the Ukrainian secret service to inform them of his decision to defect sometime last year.

“Operation Synytsia” eventually saw him fly his Mi-8 helicopter over the border and land it in eastern Ukraine on 9 August.

Two other people on board, who had been unaware of Mr Kuzminov’s plans, were shot dead when they started running back towards the border after the helicopter landed. Mr Kuzminov, who was also shot in the leg, blamed Russian forces for the killings.

During a news conference in September, Mr Kuzminov said he switched sides because he opposed Russia’s war on Ukraine.

He also said that Ukraine promised him $500,000 (£397,000) in state payments, new documents and protection for his family.

Ukrainian authorities said they had offered Mr Kuzminov the opportunity to stay in Ukraine.

The secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine, Oleksiy Danilov, said: “He would definitely have been protected here. And I don’t think that they have behaved as disgracefully here as they did in Spain,” he said.

There has been no official comment from Russian authorities, although on Tuesday, Sergei Naryshkin, director of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, said: “That traitor and criminal was a moral corpse.”

A few months after Mr Kuzminov defected, Russian state TV showed a man said to be a Russian intelligence officer saying: “I don’t think he’ll live long enough to face trial.”

Related Topics

  • War in Ukraine
  • Spain

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