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Russian Chopper Pilot Who Defected to Ukraine Found Dead in Spain

NurPhoto/Getty Images
NurPhoto/Getty Images

The Russian pilot who defected to Ukraine last year by flying a military Mi-8 helicopter across the shared border has been found dead in Spain—months after the government he abandoned swore it would seek revenge.

Maksim Kuzminov briefly captured the world’s attention last summer when it initially seemed as if his chopper had simply disappeared, only for the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate to reveal that it had secretly been plotting his defection for six months and arranging for his family’s safe escape from Russia.

At a press conference, Kuzminov recalled how he tricked his two crew members but managed to stop them from killing him mid-flight because he was the only one able to keep the aircraft from crashing.

The Ukrainian intelligence agency would later say that Kuzminov’s two companions refused to surrender and “died immediately after landing.” But the incident became a scandal back home in Russia, where local media reported that the military intelligence agency GRU had a standing order with “no expiration date” to assassinate the pilot.

On Monday, the news site Ukrainska Pravda quoted Ukraine’s military intelligence stating that Kuzminov had “decided to move to Spain… invited his ex to his place and was found shot.”

Intelligence sources apparently said his killers were found fleeing the scene of the pilot’s burned-out car.

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