Russian defector pilot shot 5 times near police station: Wall Street Journal

Russian pilot Maxim Kuzmenov during a press conference with Ukrainian press on September 5, 2023 in Kiev, Ukraine.
Vitaly Nosash/Global Images Ukraine/Getty Images

  • Maxim Kozmenov was a Russian helicopter pilot who defected to Ukraine in August.
  • Kuzminov was living in Spain under a false identity until his murder in February.
  • The Wall Street Journal quoted an official investigating the murder as saying that the Kremlin may have been involved in the killing.

Maxim Kozmenov, a 28-year-old Russian helicopter pilot who defected to Ukraine in August and later moved to Spain, was shot five times while less than 500 feet from the local police station. The Wall Street Journal mentioned.

Kuzminov met a horrific fate last February when he was killed in the small coastal town of Villajoyosa, where he was living under a false identity.

Speaking with Kuzminov's neighbours, witnesses and authorities, the newspaper reported new details about the Russian pilot's defection last year and his death on February 13.

According to the report, Kuzminov's body was found less than 500 feet from the police station, and authorities could have responded within minutes. But eyewitnesses told the newspaper that by then, Kuzminov was likely already dead.

The manager of the apartment building where Kuzminov was staying told the Journal: “When I called the emergency phone number, I already knew that the man was dead.”

One of the paramedics found five small-caliber bullets, one of which directly hit his heart, revealing the precision with which the perpetrator killed Kuzminov, according to the report.

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The identity of the suspect has not yet been identified, but an official working on the investigation told The Journal that investigators believe the Kremlin is involved in the pilot’s killing.

Kuzmenov's fate is widely seen as part of a series of mysterious Russian deaths that have raised doubts about the Kremlin's efforts to eliminate critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner mercenary group that organized a rebellion against Russia's military leadership, died in August in a plane crash outside a Moscow airport.

Western intelligence officials and a former Russian intelligence officer told the Wall Street Journal last year that Nikolai Patrushev, a close associate of Putin, orchestrated the killing.

Earlier in February, Alexei Navalny, one of Putin's most prominent political opponents, was found dead in an Arctic penal colony where he was serving a 19-year prison sentence. A medical report indicated that Navalny died of natural causes, but that did not prevent many, including Navalny's family and the Biden administration, from believing that something may have been involved.

“Make no mistake, Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death,” President Joe Biden told reporters at a press conference on February 16.

Following reports of Kuzmenov's death, Moscow's foreign intelligence chief Sergei Naryshkin appeared to favor the Russian pilot's fate.

“This traitor and criminal became a moral corpse at the very moment he planned his dirty and horrific crime,” Naryshkin told Russian news agency TASS about a week after Kuzminov’s death.

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