Russia calls pilot killed in Spain after defecting to Ukraine a "moral corpse"

Russia calls pilot killed in Spain after defecting to Ukraine a "moral corpse"
# 20 February 2024 16:38 (UTC +04:00)

Russia's foreign intelligence chief described a Russian pilot who defected to 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, APA reports citing Reuters.

Ukraine's GUR military intelligence service has confirmed that pilot Maxim Kuzminov, who flew to Ukraine with his Mi-8 helicopter last August, has died in Spain, without giving the cause of death.

Spanish officials have confirmed that a body was found riddled with bullets on Feb. 13 in an underground garage in the town of Villajoyosa, near Alicante in southern Spain. Spanish and Ukrainian media have reported that the shooting victim was the pilot, who had been living in Spain under a fake identity.

"In Russia it is customary to speak either good of the dead or nothing at all," Sergei Naryshkin, the director of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), was quoted as saying when asked about Kuzminov.

"This traitor and criminal became a moral corpse at the very moment when he planned his dirty and terrible crime," Naryshkin was quoted as saying by TASS news agency.

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.