Russian intelligence officers have orders to eliminate a helicopter pilot whose defection to Ukraine sparked anger among his comrades and accusations of being a “traitor,” according to reports.
In a documentary shown on Ukrainian television called Downed Russian Pilots, he described how he had contacted Kyiv’s intelligence officials in advance and they had helped him undertake the daring mission, promising to get his family safely out of Russia.
Kuzminov had been stationed in Russia’s eastern Primorye region as part of the 319th separate helicopter regiment. He said in the interview that he had flown into Ukraine at low altitude in radio silence mode without the knowledge of his two co-pilots and called for other Russian military figures to reject the war.
Kuzminov appealed to other Russian military personnel to defect, saying that, “what is going on now is simply the genocide of the Ukrainian people.” Newsweek has contacted the Russian Defense Ministry by email for comment.
The head of Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, said the other crew members tried to escape when the helicopter landed but were “eliminated” after the chopper had landed.
But the program Vesti Nedeli on the Russia-1 channel gave a different account, as reported by independent Russian language news outlet Agentstvo.
Citing an unnamed expert, the program said that the positions of the single gunshot wounds each of the crew members had when their bodies were returned had pointed to their being killed by Kuzminov before the helicopter landed.
This explained how Kuzminov was able to fly into Ukrainian territory without his comrades intervening, per the program.
In the report, Russian military correspondent Sergei Zenin called Kuzminov a “traitor to the Motherland,” who, like the Ukrainians who took him in, had “forgotten the history of his country, his people,” and “violated the memory of his ancestors.”
Meanwhile, Zenin said that all the pilots in Russia’s Northern Military District “dream of getting even for the death of their comrades” and his report cited a Russian intelligence source saying there would be no statute of limitations for Kuzminov to face justice.
In an interview with a group of four Russian troops, one soldier said that Kuzminov would be found and face punishment “to the fullest extent of the law of our state for treason.” His former regiment commander, Denis Chernavin, also told the program that Kuzminov was a traitor.
Russia-1 reported the Russian military intelligence agency the GRU had the order to eliminate Kuzminov and its implementation “is a matter of time” with an intelligence source saying “this crime has no expiration date,” according to Agentsvo.
Accusations of treason by Russian officials are considered very dangerous. Former GRU officer Sergei Skripal, who was poisoned with Novichok in the U.K., had been labelled a “traitor” by Vladimir Putin. This was also the term Putin used to describe the founder of the Wagner private military company, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who died in a mysterious plane crash two months after staging a rebellion against Russia’s military establishment.