Spanish police suspect bullet-riddled body may be Russian who defected with army helicopter

By Isaac M February 21, 2024

Police said Tuesday they suspect the bullet-riddled body of a man found in Spain is that of a Russian defector who escaped across the front line and into Ukraine last year with an army helicopter.

The body was found Feb. 13 in La Cala, near the eastern port city of Alicante, according to Civil Guard police. The man had been shot half a dozen times and was run over by the car, according to the Spanish state news agency Efe.

Spain’s Civil Guard said they found documents on the body that identified the man as a 33-year-old Ukrainian. But police now believe it could be Maksim Kuzminov, who defected last year by flying into Ukraine in a Mi-8 army helicopter with the help of Ukrainian intelligence.

Andrii Yusov, a representative of Ukrainian military intelligence, confirmed to local media that the former Russian pilot had died in Spain, but didn’t provide details. It is not clear how or why Kuzminov would have traveled to Spain.

The head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, Sergei Naryshkin, told Russian journalists that Maksim Kuzminov was a “traitor and criminal” who became a “moral corpse” as soon as he started planning “his dirty and terrible crime,” according to Russian state news agency Tass.

Tass also reported that Alexei Danilov, the Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said Ukraine had suggested Kuzminov remain in Ukraine where he would be protected.

Asked about the case, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he had no information on it and that Moscow had received no information via diplomatic channels.

Spain’s Civil Guard said they found false documents on a body discovered Feb. 13 in the entrance to a residential complex in La Cala.

Spanish state news agency Efe said the body had been hit by half a dozen bullets and was run over by the car used by the attackers.

Reports said a burning car — possibly the one used in the attack — was found near the area later but the Civil Guard could not immediately confirm that information.

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An earlier version of this report said that Spanish police released the tentative identification Friday. It was Tuesday.

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Associated Press writers Emma Burrows in London and Hanna Arhirova in Kyiv, Ukraine, contributed to this report.

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