Russian Helicopter Pilot Who Defected to Ukraine Shot Dead in Spain: Reports

Ukraine’s military intelligence spokesperson confirmed Maksym Kuzminov’s death to the Kyiv Post but did not provide details. According to reports, Russian media stated Kuzminov was found dead with at least five bullet wounds in an underground parking lot in southern Spain, near Alicante.

EFE, a Spanish news agency, reported that Kuzminov’s body was found on February 13. He had been living in Spain with a Ukrainian passport and an alternative name. Spanish police were unable to confirm if the body found was Kuzminov’s, but an unnamed police source said the victim may have lived under a fake name.

The Guardian reported that La Informacion claimed two suspects left the scene in a vehicle that was later found burned. Police initially thought the death may have been gang-related.

Kuzminov was a former captain in Russia’s 319th separate helicopter regiment. He defected to Ukraine in August by landing a Russian Mi-8 AMTSh at a Ukrainian air base. The defection was part of a six-month special operation called “Titmouse.”

He had two other crew members on board who were shocked about landing in Ukraine. They refused to surrender and were “eliminated.”

Kuzminov publicly identified himself as the pilot by Ukraine Defense Intelligence in September. He stated that he defected because he did not want to commit war crimes and encouraged other Russian soldiers to defect to Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials said Kuzminov would be rewarded with $500,000 and a law incentivizing Russian soldiers to hand over military equipment. He was also providing Ukraine with crucial Russian aviation intelligence.

In a September interview, Kuzminov, 28 at the time, urged other Russian soldiers to defect to Ukraine, promising they would be taken care of for the rest of their lives.

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