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War in Ukraine: Russian helicopter pilot who defected eliminated in Spain

The Ukrainian and Russian media attest to this, a source close to the investigation confirms it to the EFE agency, and the Spanish authorities do not deny it.

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War in Ukraine: Russian helicopter pilot who defected eliminated in Spain

The Ukrainian and Russian media attest to this, a source close to the investigation confirms it to the EFE agency, and the Spanish authorities do not deny it. Everything suggests that the body covered with “several bullet holes” discovered near Alicante on Tuesday, February 13, is that of Maksim Kuzminov, a 28-year-old Russian pilot who deserted last August and delivered his helicopter to the Ukrainian army.

Since the discovery of the body inside a burned vehicle in the town of Villajoyosa, the Civil Guard favored the possibility of settling scores. The head of the Ukrainian military intelligence service (GUR) was the first to publicly make the connection in an interview with the Kyiv Post: “We can confirm his death,” said Kyrylo Budanov, while another GUR source told the Ukrainska Pravda website that Kuzminov was shot several times near his home. “He had decided to move to Spain rather than stay in Ukraine,” the source said.

Also read: Westerners facing the “impasse” of the war in Ukraine

On the Russian side, Pravda quickly picked up the Spanish news and presented the pilot as a “traitor” on the Spanish version of its site. Sergei Naryshkin, director of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), said Kuzminov "was a moral corpse when he planned his crimes," declining to comment further on the case, several Russian agencies cited by Reuters reported. In Spain, finally, the Civil Guard clarified Tuesday morning in Le Figaro that the papers carried by the victim were falsified, without being able to certify the real identity, the investigation being covered by investigative secrecy. A characteristic that coincides with the guarantees offered by the Ukrainian authorities to Russian soldiers who wish to defect to the enemy: an economic reward - $500,000, in this case - and a new identity are offered to them.

Kuzminov's desertion was the subject of a detailed account by the GUR, which specially organized a press conference on September 5. The pilot himself told the local media about the operation, called Synystia (“tit”). On August 9, after six months of preparation with the Ukrainian services, Maksim Kuzminov, convinced that Russia was responsible for the war against Ukraine, took off with two comrades from a Russian air base in Kursk aboard a Mi- 8. Instead of heading to a second base to drop off military equipment, he headed for the Kharkiv oblast, keeping the aircraft at a very low altitude to pass under radar. Kuzminov then participated in a propaganda spot narrating the operation, in which he claimed that Ukrainian victory “is only a matter of time.”

“We found the right approach with the pilot, then we secretly exfiltrated his entire family from Russia,” Budanov explained to Ukrainska Pravda last September. We finally created the conditions for the transfer of the aircraft by hiding the operation from its fellow passengers. When they realized where they had landed, they tried to flee. It would have been better to have been able to capture them alive, but unfortunately they were killed.”

Once this information was made public, the young pilot was the subject of death threats in the Russian media. “Special forces have received orders” and Kuzminov “will not live to see his trial,” Russian intelligence sources predicted on Rossiya 1 television.

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