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Ukrainian intelligence: Russian pilot who defected to Ukraine found dead in Spain

by Nate Ostiller February 19, 2024 7:19 PM 3 min read
Maksim Kuzminov, a Russian helicopter pilot who defected to Ukraine, in Kyiv on Sept. 5, 2023. (Ukrinform)
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Maksim Kuzminov, a Russian helicopter pilot who has defected to Ukraine, was found shot dead in Spain, Ukrainska Pravda and other outlets reported on Feb. 19, citing the press service of Ukraine's military intelligence.

Kuzminov made headlines in August 2023 after he landed a fully intact Mi-8 helicopter in Ukraine and gave himself up to authorities. Andrii Yusov, a spokesperson for Ukraine's military intelligence, later said that Kuzminov would receive the hryvnia equivalent of $500,000 (approximately Hr 18.48 million) as a reward for defecting with the helicopter.

He said that he contacted the Ukrainian side himself, and was told he would receive security for himself and his family, payments, and new documents from Ukraine if he defected.

Kuzminov said that his parents supported his plans to defect and have joined him in Ukraine.

Citing sources from Ukraine's military intelligence, Ukrainska Pravda said that Kuzminov had decided to move to Spain, and was found shot dead in his apartment on Feb. 19.

A burned-out car was found nearby, which those who allegedly killed Kuzminov reportedly used.

Yusov confirmed his death to multiple Ukrainian media outlets, but did not provide further details.

Russian pilot who transferred to Ukraine calls on Russians to follow his example
Maksim Kuzminov, the 28-year-old Russian pilot of the Mi-8 helicopter who surrendered to Ukraine after landing in a Ukrainian airfield on Aug. 23, called on other Russian pilots to follow his example.

Kuzminov had been featured in the documentary "Downed Russian Pilots", which aired on Ukrainian television in September 2023. The film revealed how the landing was planned and carried out and Kuzminov called on other Russian pilots to follow his lead.

"If you do what I did, this kind of thing, you will not regret it at all. You will be provided for the rest of your life with absolutely everything," Kuzminov said.

Kuzminov provided "valuable evidence about Russia's army aviation, communication systems, and airfield network," according to the documentary.

He also said that there are no fascists or Nazis in Ukraine, a common talking point in Russian propaganda.

"What is happening now is simply the genocide of the Ukrainian people. Both Ukrainian and Russian. The basis of my action is not to contribute to these crimes. Ukraine will definitely win this war simply because the people have rallied very much... No one wants this war. When Ukraine wins is only a matter of time," Kuzminov said in the documentary.

Media: Russian helicopter pilot surrenders to Ukraine
A Russian pilot landed his Mi-8 helicopter at an airfield in Ukraine to give himself up to the authorities, Ukrainian media reported on Aug. 23. The landing was part of a long-term Ukrainian operation, according to Ukrainska Pravda media outlet.
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