Kuzminov’s death: A hidden message from Russia

In August last year, Russian army pilot Maksim Kuzminov surrendered to Ukraine by flying a military helicopter over the Ukrainian border under dramatic circumstances.

He had contacted the intelligence service in advance about fleeing the country because of his opposition to the war and is said to have also handed over secret documents to Ukraine. By his actions, he committed the one crime that Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he can never forgive: treason.

The war in Ukraine

  • Ukrainian mining town recreated in the game Minecraft

  • A year in a Russian prison – that’s how Evan Gershkovich lives today

  • Lived under false identity

    In February, Maksim Kuzminov was found shot dead in the Spanish resort of Villajoyosa, where he had moved under a false name. Shells from 9-millimeter Makarov cartridges, standard ammunition of the former communist bloc, were found at the scene.

    “It was a clear message,” a senior official from the Spanish police told the newspaper.

    Maxim Kuzminov was shot dead in a garage in the town of Villajoyosa on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. Photo: Reuters

    The act leads experts the newspaper spoke to to believe that the Russian intelligence service has begun to operate abroad in a manner similar to that of the Stalin era. Kuzminov’s killing has several similarities to other Kremlin-linked operations, including the 2019 killing of a former Chechen commander in Germany, and the 2018 poisoning of a former Russian military intelligence agent in Britain.

    “Long arms”

    Although it has not been proven that the Kremlin is behind the murder, Russia has made no secret of wanting to see Kuzminov dead.

    “We will find this person and punish him for treason. Our arms are long,” reads a statement by a commando from Russia’s military intelligence service.

    A Ukrainian official with whom the paper has spoken says:

    “This is a hidden message to other citizens of Russia, especially military personnel, that we will find you if you betray us. Who will dare to cooperate with us after this?”