A former Russian pilot who surrendered to the Ukrainian authorities in 2023 was brutally killed in Spain - ForumDaily
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A former Russian pilot who surrendered to the Ukrainian authorities in 2023 was brutally killed in Spain.

Maxim Kuzminov, a Russian pilot who in August 2023 flew a Russian Mi-8 helicopter across the front line to Ukraine and surrendered to the Ukrainian military, was killed in Spain, reports Washington Post.

Photo: iStock.com/GregorBister

From 6 to 12 bullets were fired at Kuzminov, and then a car drove over the corpse, in which the killers fled the crime scene.

The incident occurred on the east coast of Spain - in the seaside town of Villajoyosa, Alicante province, where many Russians and Ukrainians live. Kuzminov's body was found at the exit of the underground garage of a residential complex in the Bukhta microdistrict. It is believed that the killers - there were two of them - were waiting for the Russian in the garage, where the first shots were fired.

Ukrainian intelligence spokesman Andrei Yusov confirmed on February 20 that the body found at the entrance to a residential complex in Villajoyosa was that of Kuzminov.

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His killing - following a public threat to his life last year on Russian state television - has raised questions. Officials are investigating whether it was a Russian-ordered killing carried out on European soil.

News of Kuzminov's murder comes just days after the sudden death in prison of Russian political opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Russian officials have not claimed responsibility for the killing. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the case on February 20, saying it was “not on the Kremlin’s agenda.”

But Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia's foreign intelligence service, told Russian journalists on February 20 that Kuzminov was already dead at the moment he began planning his escape.

“In Russia it is customary to speak well of the dead or say nothing at all. This traitor and criminal had already become a moral corpse at the moment when he was planning his dirty and terrible crime,” Naryshkin said.

Direct threats from Russia

In October, the host of the state television news program Vesti Nedeli, Dmitry Kiselev, released a story about Kuzminov’s escape. At the end of the report, Russian military intelligence special forces stated that they were given orders to eliminate Kuzminov.

“We will find this man and punish him to the fullest extent of the law for treason,” one said. “We have long arms.”

“He won’t live to see trial,” said another.

On February 20, Russian propagandists “celebrated” the news of the pilot’s death.

Pro-Kremlin blogger Sergei Markov wrote on Telegram that Kuzminov had been “eliminated.”

“We will not rejoice in anyone's death. But this news can save many lives, because it reminds everyone: take care of your lives and never cooperate with the Ukrainian neo-fascist regime in anything,” he said.

What is known about the pilot Kuzminov

In September 2023, it became known that Maxim Kuzminov hijacked a Russian military helicopter Mi-8 to Ukraine from the Kursk region. He justified his action by his rejection of war—his reluctance to commit war crimes. As the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine later stated, his flight was a planned operation that had been prepared for several months.

Ukrainian intelligence convinced him to send his Mi-8 helicopter to Ukraine with spare parts for jet aircraft and defect. The two crew members who were with him were unaware of the plot, officials said. They were shot dead by Ukrainian soldiers when they refused to surrender.

The Ukrainian government later announced that the pilot had received a reward of $500 in local currency and urged other Russian military personnel to follow suit.

Kuzminov explained how his escape happened in a September interview published by the Ukrainian Military Intelligence Service.

“I contacted representatives of Ukrainian intelligence, explained my situation, to which they offered this option: 'We guarantee your safety, we guarantee new documents, we guarantee monetary compensation, reward,'” he said then.

According to a Ukrainian intelligence official, Kuzminov ignored instructions from the Ukrainian government not to leave the country where security services could provide him with a degree of protection.

Kuzminov did not want to remain in Ukraine, said the official, who wished to remain anonymous. According to him, the Russian pilot “violated protocol” and flew to Spain.

Other cases

Russian agent Vadim Krasikov is serving a life sentence in Germany for the murder of former Chechen militant Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Berlin's Kleiner Tiergarten park in 2019. German prosecutors said during the trial that Krasikov likely acted on orders from Russian state security services.

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied any involvement. But Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to rebut those denials with an oblique comment in an interview this month with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

Putin suggested that he might be open to trading Evan Gershkovich for Krasikov. Gershkovich is a Wall Street Journal correspondent who was arrested in Russia on espionage charges. He and the State Department categorically deny the allegations.

Putin described Krasikov as “a man who, out of patriotic sentiments, eliminated a bandit in one of the European capitals.”

“Whether he did it of his own free will or not is another question,” Putin added.

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British authorities have, among other things, blamed Russian security services for the fatal poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Federal Security Service officer and critic of Putin, in London in 2006. In addition, British authorities accused the Russian Federation of poisoning former Russian intelligence agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, England, in 2018. The Skripals survived, but British citizen Dawn Sturgess died after picking up a discarded bottle of perfume that contained a nerve agent.

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