Maksim Kuzminov, Russian pilot who defected to Ukraine, killed in Spain

Spain’s EFE news agency says Maksim Kuzminov’s body was found on February 13 in the southern town of Villajoyosa.

Defected Russian Mi-8 helicopter pilot, Captain Maksim Kuzminov
Defected Russian Mi-8 helicopter pilot Captain Maksim Kuzminov attends a news conference [File: Kirill Chubotin/Getty Images]

The bullet-riddled body of a Russian pilot who defected to Ukraine last year has been found in a town in southern Spain, according to Spanish and Ukrainian media.

Spain’s EFE news agency, in a report on Monday, said Maksim Kuzminov’s body was found in an underground garage on February 13 in the town of Villajoyosa, situated near Alicante in southern Spain.

“This traitor and criminal became a moral corpse at the very moment when he planned his dirty and terrible crime,” said Sergey Naryshkin, the head of Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence service, on Tuesday.

He did not confirm or deny any Russian involvement in the former pilot’s death.

“In Russia, it is customary to speak either good of the dead or nothing at all,” Naryshkin said, according to Russian state media.

Kuzminov, who had landed in Ukraine with his Mi-8 helicopter last August, had been living in Spain with a Ukrainian passport under a different name, EFE reported.

A spokesperson for Ukraine’s GUR military intelligence confirmed that Kuzminov had died in Spain, but did not specify the cause of death.

Spanish police confirmed that a body was found of a gunshot victim in the town, but did not disclose the victim’s identity. A source at Spain’s Guardia Civil police force told the Reuters news agency that the victim could have been living under a fake identity.

Spain’s La Informacion newspaper, which first reported the shooting, said investigators were searching for two suspects who had fled in a vehicle that was later found burned out in a nearby town.

Kuzminov’s defection to Ukraine was presented last year as a major coup for Kyiv. The pilot said the GUR had lured him into defecting.

“I contacted representatives of the Ukrainian intelligence service, explained my situation. I was offered security guarantees, new documents, monetary compensation, remuneration. We discussed the details and started planning my flight,” Kuzminov said, according to a report by Interfax Ukraine.

EFE, citing a GUR source, said Kuzminov had decided to go live in Spain instead of staying in Ukraine.

His apparent killing in Spain comes to light after the death of Russian dissident Alexey Navalny in suspicious circumstances in a Siberian prison.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies