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Russian pilot who defected to Ukraine to receive $500,000 reward

by Elsa Court September 5, 2023 7:57 PM 2 min read
Maksim Kuzminov, the Russian helicopter pilot who defected to Ukraine, in Kyiv on Sept. 5, 2023. (Photo: Ukrinform)
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Maksim Kuzminov, a Russian helicopter pilot who has defected to Ukraine, will receive the hryvnia equivalent of $500,000 (approximately Hr 18.48 million), Ukraine's Military Intelligence (HUR) spokesperson Andrii Yusov said on Sept. 5.

In April 2022, Ukraine's parliament passed a law offering up to $1 million to Russian military personnel who manage to transfer equipment to Ukraine. The size of the reward depends on the type of equipment they hand over.

The 28-year-old pilot landed his Mi-8 helicopter fully intact at an airfield in Ukraine when he defected, Ukrainian media reported on Aug. 23.

He spoke at a press conference on the operation on Sept. 5 and explained that he defected because he "did not want to contribute" to the crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine, which he believes is a "wonderful country."

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He said that he contacted the Ukrainian side himself, and was told he would receive security for himself and his family, payments, and new documents from Ukraine if he defected.

Kuzminov said that his parents supported his plans to defect and have joined him in Ukraine.

He added that he no longer has contact with other Russian soldiers he served with, but would like to convey to them that there are no fascists or Nazis in Ukraine, as Russian propaganda claims.

The defection was the result of a long-term operation by the HUR to bring the Mi-8 helicopter and its pilot to Ukraine.

The story was featured in the documentary "Downed Russian Pilots", which aired on Ukrainian television on the evening of Sept. 3. The film revealed how the landing was planned and carried out and Kuzminov called on other Russian pilots to follow his lead.

"If you do what I did, this kind of thing, you will not regret it at all. You will be provided for the rest of your life with absolutely everything," Kuzminov said.

Kuzminov provided "valuable evidence about Russia's army aviation, communication systems, and airfield network," according to the documentary.

"When Ukraine officially calls on the Russians to go over to our side together with the equipment, it is not propaganda. It is not a lie. It is the truth," Yusov added during the press conference on Sept. 5.

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