Russian Helicopter Pilot ‘Shot Dead’ In Spain: Report Claims Ukraine Could Be Behind Defectors Murder

The infamous Russian pilot, Maxim Kuzminov, who flew a military helicopter to Ukraine, has now been found dead in Spain with gunshot wounds.

The announcement was made by a spokesperson of the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine, Andriy Yusov, on February 19. However, he stopped short of divulging more specific details about what is speculated to be a targeted killing of the defector pilot.

The reports of the alleged murder were first shared by some local Spanish sources and media outlets. Some unverified reports noted that Kuzminov had recently been struggling with alcoholism and drug abuse.

These reports cited his neighbors telling the police, “The foreigner behaved inadequately, often shouted, led drunken chatter, and told many stories about his past and present life.” Russian news agency TASS said the police also suspect that the Ukrainian special services could have eliminated an uncomfortable witness.

According to a GUR source cited by the newspaper Ukrainska Pravda, Kuzminov’s body had been discovered by the pilot’s ex-girlfriend. “He decided to move to Spain instead of being here [in Ukraine]. From what we know: he invited his ex to his place and was found shot dead,” the source reportedly said.

Without providing a source, Italian news site Il Corrispondente said that Maxim Kuzminov was slain on February 13 in the Spanish province of Alicante, in the town of Villajoyosa. On its part, the Russian media reported that he was found in an underground parking in Spain with five gunshot wounds. None of these claims, however, could be independently verified at the time of writing this report.

Kuzminov, a Russian Mi-8 helicopter pilot, had defected to Ukraine in August 2023 after reportedly being “lured” by a six-month intelligence operation. This has given rise to speculation that some Russian agents could likely be behind the murder of the defector. Some pro-Russian netizens commented that “there is no place for traitors”.

A popular military blogger ‘Igor Sushko’ said on Platform X that Russian state TV ran a broadcast in October last year that showed GRU Spetsnaz operators who were allegedly tasked with his assassination, saying he won’t live to see his trial. A video was also published by Sushko to back his claims.

The paucity of details surrounding the mysterious killing of the pilot has given rise to counterclaims made by pro-Russian accounts. These state that the shooting was most likely a Ukrainian conspiracy so that Kuzminov could not tell the world the truth about how the Ukrainian Armed Forces carried out deceit.

Certain Russian bloggers asserted that stories of Kuzminov’s death were staged to simulate the pilot’s demise by Ukrainian security services. Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-appointed official in southern Ukraine, wrote on Telegram: “Don’t get too excited. They want to create a new biography with a clean slate and a new name for the traitor.”

These pro-Russian military analysts believe that the shooting is yet another incident in a long list of accusations that have been made against Russia for killing state enemies on foreign soil. The Kremlin has firmly denied all these accusations leveled over the years despite incriminating evidence presented against it.

How Did Kuzminov Get to Ukraine?

In August 2023, Ukraine’s GUR military intelligence agency claimed that a Russian Mi-8 helicopter with the defecting pilot and his unaware crew members had landed at a Ukrainian airfield. The agency, however, did not reveal the exact date and time of the chopper’s landing at the time.

The disclosure was shocking as it followed weeks of allegations by a Russian aviation blogger known only as “Fighterbomber” that a Russian helicopter carrying three people had “accidentally” crossed the border,

Ukrainian intelligence officials finally broke their silence in late August, stating that the crossing over by the pilot was a premeditated Ukrainian act. “This was a GUR operation,” spokesperson Andriy Yusov said at the time.

“The aircraft moved according to the plan. You must wait a bit; work is being conducted, including with the crew. Everything is fine, there will be news,” Yusov told the media at the time.

The Head of Ukraine’s GUR intelligence agency, Kyrylo Budanov, claimed that his men had convinced Kuzminov to defect during a complex six-month operation. According to Budanov, the pilot’s family had already been removed from Russia.

Maxim Kuzminov finally revealed the details of the operation he had to undertake to fly across the border in his Mi-8 combat helicopter in an interview published by Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence on September 4.

The defecting pilot attributed his decision to high-ranking Russian military officers, which would permanently alter his life. He claimed that members of the Russian military “live for their pleasure”, that subordinates are typically “left to their own devices,” and that commanders “never have time to deal with it; they have their problems”.

Russian defector Maxim Kuzminov (via Platform X)

Kuzminov went on to detail a few incidents, such as the uncanny task of dispatching two helicopters to move a cat. He observed that the Commanders seemed content to waste time and money as long as it served their interests, laying bare his disillusionment with his Russian commanders that the Ukrainian intelligence exploited.

Additionally, it also appeared that the pilot’s mission involved refuting the allegations of Nazism in Ukraine—a pretext Russia used to justify its purported “Special Military Operation.”

Mi-8 military chopper of the Russian Air Force-Wikimedia Commons

Explaining how he managed to get through, Kuzminov stated he spoke with Ukrainian intelligence agents and explained his predicament. They suggested he take advantage of this opportunity, saying, “Come on, we guarantee your safety, guarantee new documents, guarantee monetary compensation, a reward.”

During one flight, he said, “I realized that I was near the border. I relayed my location. I said: ‘Let’s try it; I’m not far away.’ And, having made a final decision, I flew at an extremely low altitude in radio silence mode. No one understood what was going on with me at all.”

“You’ll be provided for the rest of your lives,” he stressed, enticing his colleagues to enlist in the Ukrainian military. You will be offered a job everywhere, no matter what you do. You’ll discover a world of colors.”

It is unclear why the defecting pilot, who was so certain of being in Ukraine, chose to move to Spain instead.

From the beginning of the conflict, Ukraine has also been methodically preparing strategies to force Russian pilots to defect to its side. As previously reported by EurAsian Times, three Russian pilots, flying Su-34 fighter bombers, Tu-22M3 strategic bombers, and Su-24 tactical bombers, were the targets of Ukrainian GUR’s efforts to convince them to defect. However, the Russian FSB thwarted that plot.

Maxim Kuzminov appealed to his brothers in the Russian military to also defect to the Ukrainian side by saying, “What is going on now is simply the genocide of the Ukrainian people. Both Ukrainian and Russian. The motivation for my action was to not contribute to these crimes.”

The interview generated a lot of frenzy, with analysts fearing that it could cause a domino effect, with other troops from the Russian military following suit. However, no significant defection incidents have been reported since.