Spanish intelligence has ‘no doubt’ Russia ordered murder of pilot who defected to Ukraine

Spanish intelligence services have “no doubt” that the Kremlin ordered the assassination of Maxim Kuzminov, a former Russian military helicopter pilot who defected to Ukraine in August and subsequently moved to Spain, Spanish daily El País reported on Thursday.

The only doubts Spanish intelligence experts have about the murder of Kuzminov in the town of Villajoyosa earlier this month are whether it was carried out on the instruction of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, Federal Security Service (FSB) or Military Intelligence Service, El País said.

While Spanish intelligence sources were certain of the Russian agencies’ direct involvement in Kuzminov’s killing, it was “difficult for the investigation to find evidence of the involvement of any of them”, the daily reported, adding that Kuzminov was most likely murdered by “hired killers from outside Spain” who had since fled the country.

The Russian Embassy in Madrid had probably “stayed on the sidelines” to avoid being implicated in the operation, El País quoted its sources as saying. Sources also suggested that those who orchestrated the killing may have employed Russian citizens living in Spain or local organised crime groups to carry out surveillance of Kuzminov, who was not under Spanish government protection.

The death of an unnamed Ukrainian national in Villajoyosa was first reported by Spanish media on 14 February, with Russian state media subsequently identifying the murdered man as Kuzminov.

The head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service Sergey Naryshkin called Kuzminov a “criminal traitor” and a “moral corpse” on Tuesday for having defected by landing his helicopter in a Ukrainian airfield in August as part of a special operation coordinated with the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine.

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