Russia Responds After Defector Is Found Dead

It has been reported that the Russian pilot Maksim Kuzminov, who fled to Ukraine last summer, was assassinated in Spain. 

Ukrainian intelligence officers advised him not to leave the country and informed him that his life was in danger. But Kuzminov disregarded them and took his fortune to a seaside vacation town in Spain. He has now experienced the severe consequences that Ukrainian officials had foretold. 

According to two Spanish police officers familiar with the investigation, Kuzminov was identified as a man discovered last week in the seaside town of Villajoyosa who was riddled with bullets. While he did not go into detail, Andriy Cherniak, a spokesman for Ukraine’s military intelligence, did state that he could confirm the fact that Kuzminov is dead.

Neither the names of the perpetrators nor any details on their suspected motivation have been made public by the authorities. Discouraging claims made by the Civil Guard, a division of Spain’s national police forces, have further clouded the investigation. 

The Guard had previously claimed that documents discovered on the body identified the victim as a 33-year-old man from Ukraine. They went on to say that the papers might be forgeries. 

The defection of such a prominent figure would only serve to heighten tensions between Moscow and European capitals, as rumors will circulate that Russia’s security agencies were involved in the death. Western intelligence agencies claim that Russian President Vladimir V. Putin has sanctioned the deliberate killing of Russian spies overseas and has made no secret of his contempt for defectors.

Russia’s foreign intelligence chief made the first statement on the issue since the news of the killing broke, describing the Russian pilot who betrayed his country and deserted to Ukraine as a “moral corpse” after he was found shot dead. 

According to a judicial source who spoke on Tuesday, a Spanish court in Villajoyosa has begun an investigation into the gunshot victim’s death. 

The victim was confirmed to be a 33-year-old Ukrainian national at the time of his death, but his identity was still being investigated.