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19 Feb, 2024 19:30

Russian military pilot who defected to Ukraine found dead – Spanish state media

Maksim Kuzminov, who hijacked a military helicopter, has reportedly been gunned down
Russian military pilot who defected to Ukraine found dead – Spanish state media

Russian pilot Maksim Kuzminov, who defected to Ukraine last year with a military helicopter, has been killed, the Spanish news agency EFE reported on Monday, citing people close to the investigation. According to EFE, the ex-pilot was shot dead on February 13 in Villajoyosa, a city on Spain’s eastern coast.

Kuzminov made headlines last August, when he flew a Russian Mi-8 military cargo helicopter to Ukraine. The pilot’s treason resulted in the deaths of his two fellow crew members, who were “liquidated” during the operation, according to Ukrainian intelligence, which touted the defection as a major success.

A spokesman for Ukrainian military intelligence (GUR), Andrey Yusov, also claimed on Monday that Kuzminov has been killed. 

The official was reached for comment on the matter by RBK-Ukraine after media reports suggested the pilot had been killed in the Spanish coastal town of Villajoyosa last week.

“We can confirm the fact of his death,” Yusov told RBK-Ukraine without providing any further detail. 

Reports on Kuzminov’s death emerged earlier in the day from at least two outlets, presumably not linked. The Italian-language website Il-Correspondente published a lengthy piece on the matter, with further details provided by Spanish-language Eureka News.

The latter seemingly operates only on social media and appears to be focused primarily on the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Eureka News deleted its posts on the apparent death of Kuzminov shortly after publication.

The reports suggested the defector was the victim of a gruesome murder which occurred in Villajoyosa last week. The incident appeared to be a mafia-style hit, with the victim shot multiple times and run over by a car, which was later found burned away from the scene, earlier information from local media said.

However, Spanish media reports identified the victim as a 33-year-old Ukrainian national, who had been seeking asylum in the country. Kuzminov would now be 28 years old and it was not immediately known whether he had received Ukrainian citizenship.

Unverified reports of the pilot’s death spread widely across Russian media, with some outlets reaching out to Spanish law enforcement for comment. RIA Novosti, for instance, said it inquired with Spain’s Guardia Civil on the matter, yet the national police agency was unable to confirm the death of the defector.