What we know about the fate of Maxim Kouzminov, a Russian pilot who crossed over to the Ukrainian side whose death was announced in Spain

Barely four days after the death in custody of Russian opponent Alexeï Navalny, the shadow of the Kremlin once again looms over the death of a defector from the Russian army, who crossed over to the Ukrainian side this summer at the end of an operation who was the pride of the special forces and whose incredible itinerary would have ended in Spain.

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According to sources close to the Guardia Civil, cited Tuesday by El País, the body found riddled with bullets last week near Alicante is indeed that of Maxime Kouzminov, a Russian helicopter pilot who had defected six months earlier. The young man, who was 28 years old, was able to be identified using his fingerprints, the daily said.

Six days earlier, daily life regional Informationciting the Guardia Civil, announced that a man had been killed by half a dozen bullets in the chest in Villajoyosa, a fishing village of the Costa Blanca, evoking the possibility of a settling of scores. The papers found on his remains indicated a “Ukrainian citizen” 33 years old. “ During the investigation, it turned out that the identity used by this person could be false”a spokesperson for the Spanish Interior Ministry told Agence France-Presse on Tuesday.

Confirmation of Ukrainian intelligence

The body was discovered in the underground parking lot of the housing estate where he lived, like many expatriates, notably Ukrainians, Russians and Bulgarians. Always according to Informationhis two assassins fled in a car found burned about twenty kilometers away.

Andri Yussov, spokesperson for the General Directorate of Ukrainian Military Intelligence (GUR), had already confirmed the death of the pilot to Kyiv Post, Monday, and on public television, without specifying either the location or the circumstances. An anonymous member of the Ukrainian intelligence services later clarified toUkrainskaya Pravda as Maxim Kuzminov had decided to settle in Spain. “According to what we know, he had invited his ex to his house and was found shot to death”he added.

“This traitor and criminal had already become a potential corpse when he was planning his dirty and terrible crime”, Sergei Naryshkin commented on Tuesday, director of the Russian foreign intelligence services (SVR), without mentioning any responsibility from Moscow. To thicken the mystery a little further, others, still on the Russian side, suggest that the pilot is alive and that his death was staged to guarantee his safety.

“Don’t get excited too quickly. The GUR thus consolidates the disinformation of the TsIPsO [Centre d’information et d’opérations psychologiques des forces ukrainiennes]wrote Vladimir Rogov, member of the administration of the Russian-occupied part of the Zaporizhia oblast, on Monday, on Telegram. They did this to provide the traitor with a new biography with a clean slate and a new name. »

Operation Mésange

According to the account he himself gave in front of television camerasa few weeks after his defection, Maxime Kouzminov, member of 319e helicopter regiment of the Russian aviation, said he took advantage of a transport mission on August 9 from the Kursk air base to flee at the controls of his MI-8 helicopter and reach the Kharkiv region, where GUR members were waiting for him.

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“The truth is that there are no fascists or Nazis here and I am truly saddened by what is happening now… The killings, the tears, the blood (…) I do not want to be complicit in Russian crimes”, he explained on September 5 to the Ukrainian press, in the presence of General Kyrylo Boudanov, head of the GUR. Six months earlier, he said, he had contacted members of the Ukrainian intelligence services to explain his intentions. “I was offered this option, security guarantees, new identity documents and financial compensation” half a million dollars (462,000 euros), said the pilot, assuring that he did not defect for money.

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In a spectacular documentary broadcast at the same timethe Ukrainian special services said they had spent months preparing the operation, called Mésange, in particular to get his relatives out of Russia and secure the route, which did not prevent the shooting. “I can’t say for sure where they came from, but I assume it was from the Russian sidesaid the pilot. I realized I was near the border, I shared my location [avec les services spéciaux ukrainiens]. I said: “Let’s try, I’m not far away”. I flew at an extremely low altitude in radio silence mode (…) and landed. »

Alongside him were two other crew members whom he said he tried in vain to convince to follow him in his escape. “They became frightened, began to behave aggressively and finally rushed out of the helicopter, towards the border”, he continued. According to Ukrainian intelligence services, they chose “not to surrender and lost their lives after landing”.

The affair also caused a stir in Russia. In a program broadcast in early October by the Rossiya 1 channel, journalist Sergei Zenin claimed that the GRU had received orders to eliminate Maxim Kuzminov and also accused him of having himself executed the two other crew members. .

In addition to the defection of the pilot, the seizure of his helicopter and the parts of the Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30 SM fighters that he was transporting, the GUR says it has acquired valuable information and even compares the operation to that which allowed the Mossad to seize a MiG-21 in 1966, the flagship of Soviet aviation at the time.

source site-29