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Who is Maksim Kuzminov? Why Spanish Intelligence Agencies have accused him?

Spanish intelligence agencies have accused the Kremlin of masterminding the murder of Russian military pilot Maksim Kuzminov, who defected to Ukraine on a helicopter last August.

U.S. political news outlet Politico reported on February 22 that Spanish intelligence sources told Spanish newspaper El Pais that it would be very difficult to directly link Kuzminov’s murder to a Russian agency, but it is believed that Moscow hired gunmen from outside Spain to carry out the assassination.

Maksim Kuzminov, who was reportedly living in Spain under a false identity, was found dead on February 13 this year in an underground garage in Villajoyosa, a seaside town near Alicante in southern Spain. The assailant shot him six times and then drove over his body, police said.

El Pais quoted sources as saying that Spanish intelligence agencies did not know that Kuzminov was living in Spain at the time because he was not notified. Earlier this week, a Spanish government spokesman did not respond to questions about whether Maksim Kuzminov was under police protection, saying only that the case was still under investigation.

According to the report, diplomatic sources said that if Spain determines that the Kremlin is involved in the case, it will respond forcefully.

In August last year, Maksim Kuzminov piloted a Mi-8 helicopter from the front line of the Russo-Ukrainian war to surrender to Ukraine and received a reward equivalent to US$500,000.

In this defection, known as “Operation Tit,” the Mi-8AMTSh helicopter piloted by Kuzminov remained intact, and Ukraine incorporated it into the Ukrainian Air Force fleet after a detailed study of the aircraft. The helicopter was also equipped with some parts of Su-30SM and Su-35 fighter jets.

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Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) chief Sergey Naryshkin told Russia’s official news agency TASS on Tuesday that Maksim Kuzminov was a traitor and a criminal who “had become a corpse while planning his dirty and heinous crimes.”

According to Agence France-Presse, Russian official television said in October last year that the General Intelligence Directorate (GRU) of the Russian General Staff had ordered the elimination of Kuzminov.

The Kremlin said on Tuesday it had no information about Kuzminov’s death.

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