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Kremlin spy chief calls defecting Russian helicopter pilot a ‘moral corpse’ days after he was found ‘riddled with bullets’ and run over by a car in Spain – amid fears hit squad assassinated him to ‘settle scores’


A Russian spy chief has described a helicopter pilot who defected Ukraine and was found shot dead in Spain as a ‘moral corpse’ for betraying his country, in Moscow‘s first comment on the case since news of the killing emerged.

Captain Maksim Kuzminov, 28, fled Russia with the help of Ukrainian intelligence services and accused Vladimir Putin of ‘genocide’ following his daring escape last summer. 

Ukrainian GUR military intelligence confirmed yesterday that the pilot – a known target of Russian death squads – had died in Spain, but gave no further details about the circumstances surrounding his death, though Spanish and Ukrainian media reported that he had been living in Spain under a fake name. 

In the Kremlin’s first response to Kuzminov’s killing, Sergei Naryshkin, the director of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), said: ‘In Russia it is customary to speak either good of the dead or nothing at all.’

But he quickly added: ‘This traitor and criminal became a moral corpse at the very moment when he planned his dirty and terrible crime.’ 

Captain Maksim Kuzminov, 28, (pictured) fled Russia with the help of Ukrainian intelligence services

Captain Maksim Kuzminov, 28, (pictured) fled Russia with the help of Ukrainian intelligence services

Ukrainian GUR military intelligence confirmed yesterday that the body of the pilot - a known target of Russian death squads - was found in Spain (Pictured)

Ukrainian GUR military intelligence confirmed yesterday that the body of the pilot – a known target of Russian death squads – was found in Spain (Pictured)

Sergei Naryshkin, the director of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), said: 'This traitor and criminal became a moral corpse at the very moment when he planned his dirty and terrible crime'

Sergei Naryshkin, the director of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), said: ‘This traitor and criminal became a moral corpse at the very moment when he planned his dirty and terrible crime’

Western leaders say Russia frequently assassinates those it deems traitors abroad. Moscow says the West has not provided evidence to support such assertions.

A Spanish court in Villajoyosa has opened a probe into the death of the shooting victim, a judicial source told Reuters on Tuesday. 

At the time of his death, the victim carried documentation identifying him as a 33-year-old Ukrainian national, but his identity was still under investigation, the source said.

Kuzminov’s defection to Ukraine was presented last year as a major coup for Kyiv. At a news conference in Kyiv he said he could not understand why his ‘beloved motherland’ would enter into a war with Ukraine.

Other members of the air crew died during his defection. Moscow said Kuzminov killed them; he said they panicked and fled, and may have been killed subsequently.

In October, soon after his dramatic defection, there were public death threats against Kuzminov in Russia, with suggestions that Putin’s secret services would find and kill him for an ultimate betrayal. 

Kuzminov's defection to Ukraine was presented last year as a major coup for Kyiv

Kuzminov’s defection to Ukraine was presented last year as a major coup for Kyiv

Anonymous Spetsnaz special forces officers from Russia's GRU were last year shown on Moscow state TV making clear an 'order' had been given to liquidate Kuzminov

Anonymous Spetsnaz special forces officers from Russia’s GRU were last year shown on Moscow state TV making clear an ‘order’ had been given to liquidate Kuzminov

Anonymous Spetsnaz special forces officers from Russia’s GRU were last year shown on Moscow state TV making clear an ‘order’ had been given to liquidate Kuzminov. 

State-run Rossiya 1 channel’s Vesti Nedeli channel told viewers in a chilling broadcast: ‘The order [to kill Captain Kuzminov] was received, its execution is a matter of time.’

One Spetsnaz officer said: ‘We’ll find the man and punish him for betraying his brothers to the fullest extent of our country’s law.’

A second officer said: ‘He will not live…’

Kuzminov’s wife and family were believed to have been taken out of Russia before he defected. It was not known why he was in Spain.

After defecting, Kuzminov became a propaganda trophy for Ukraine. 

Kuzminov's wife and family were believed to have been taken out of Russia before he defected. It was not known why he was in Spain

Kuzminov’s wife and family were believed to have been taken out of Russia before he defected. It was not known why he was in Spain

After defecting, Kuzminov became a propaganda trophy for Ukraine

After defecting, Kuzminov became a propaganda trophy for Ukraine

He stated there were no Nazis in Ukraine – a regular Putin assertion – and accused the dictator of ‘genocide’ of both Ukrainians and Russians by conducting the war.

In a documentary on his audacious flight and surrender, he said: ‘I realised I was near the border.

‘So I gave my location, said let’s give it a shot… I had made my final decision… I flew at extremely low altitude in radio silent mode.…’

He said: ‘[I defected because] I am very offended by what is happening now.

‘Murder, tears, blood. Just people killing each other… 

‘What is happening now is just genocide of the Ukrainian people, both Ukrainian and Russian.

‘The basis of my action is not to contribute to these crimes.’

In an interview broadcast by Ukraine’s authorities, Kuzimov said: ‘I contacted representatives of Ukrainian intelligence, explained my situation, to which they offered this option “Come on, we guarantee your safety, guarantee new documents, guarantee monetary compensation, a reward”.’

He was reportedly promised £400,000 to defect to Ukraine with Russian military equipment.



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