Russian pilot who defected to Ukraine shot dead in Spain -reports

By Thomson Reuters Feb 19, 2024 | 1:23 PM

KYIV/MADRID (Reuters) – A Russian pilot who defected to Ukraine with his helicopter last year was found dead in an underground garage in Spain last week, his body riddled with bullets, Ukrainian and Spanish media reported on Monday.

Spain’s state news agency EFE reported that a body found on Feb 13 in the town of Villajoyosa, near Alicante in southern Spain, belonged to pilot Maxim Kuzminov, who had landed in Ukraine with his Mi-8 helicopter last August. He had been living in Spain with a Ukrainian passport under a different name, it said.

A spokesperson for Ukraine’s GUR military intelligence confirmed to Reuters that Kuzminov had died in Spain, but did not specify the cause of death. Ukraine’s Ukrainska Pravda newspaper also reported that he had been found shot dead.

Spanish police have confirmed that a body was found of a gunshot victim in the town, but have not disclosed the victim’s identity. A source at Spain’s Guardia Civil police force told Reuters 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 burnt out in a nearby town.

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

(Reporting by Tom Balmforth in Kyiv, David Latona and Emma Pinedo in Madrid; Editing by Andrei Khalip)