Russian Pilot Who Defected to Ukraine with Mi-8 Helicopter Found Dead With Bullet Wounds in Underground Garage in Spain

Kuzminov's defection in August last year was considered a significant success for Kyiv

Maxim Kuzminov, a Russian pilot who defected to Ukraine last year with a Mi-8 helicopter, was found dead in an underground garage in Spain, Ukrainian officials announced. His body was found on February 13 with multiple bullet wounds in Villajoyosa, a coastal town in Alicante, southern Spain, according to reports from Ukrainian and Spanish media on Monday.

Russian Pilot

Kuzminov's defection in August last year was considered a major success for Kyiv, following a six-month-long intelligence operation. He reached Ukraine in a Russian Mi-8 helicopter and had been living in Spain under a different identity with a Ukrainian passport, as per reports.

"He decided to move to Spain instead of staying here [in Ukraine]. From what we know, he invited his ex to his place and was later found shot dead," Ukrainska Pravda, a Ukrainian news website, quoted a Ukrainian intelligence source on Monday.

Sergei Naryshkin, Russia's spy chief, responded to reports of Kuzminov's death, labeling him a "traitor and criminal."

He said, "In Russia it is customary to speak either good of the dead or nothing at all. This traitor and criminal became a moral corpse at the very moment when he planned his dirty and terrible crime," as quoted by TASS news agency.

While Ukrainian officials confirmed Kuzminov's death in Spain, they did not specify the cause. Spanish police officials have not yet confirmed the victim's identity but acknowledged the discovery of a body with gunshot wounds in the town. There is speculation that Kuzminov may have been living under a false identity.

Investigators are currently looking for two suspects who are believed to have fled in a vehicle found burnt and abandoned in a nearby town, according to Spain's La Informacion newspaper.

This comes amid heightened tensions following the recent death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in his Arctic prison colony. Navalny's widow, Yulia, has accused Putin of poisoning her husband with novichok and hiding his body until traces of the nerve agent are no longer detectable.

As investigations into Kuzminov's death continue, the circumstances surrounding his death raise questions about potential motives and connections to broader geopolitical tensions.