A man identified as Maxim Kuzminov by Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence, seen in a video interview published on September 3, 2023.
Defense Intelligence of Ukraine
A Russian pilot said he defected to Ukraine, along with his helicopter, to escape what he called ‘genocide’.
Ukraine published an interview of the pilot, Maksym Kuzminov, who defected in August.
Ukrainian officials describe the invasion as a type of genocide, and the UN is investigating.
The Russian pilot who defected to Ukraine along with his helicopter said he abandoned the Russian military to avoid being part of what he called the “genocide of the Ukrainian people.”
Maksym Kuzminov described his motivation in an interview published by Ukraine’s defense-intelligence agency on Sunday. It described him as a captain in Russia’s 319th separate helicopter regiment.
“What is happening now is simply genocide of the Ukrainian people. Both Ukrainian and Russian,” the 28-year-old said, according to CNN’s translation.
Kuzminov said that he defected because he did not want to be involved in war crimes, per CNN’s translation.
He didn’t give specifics on why he considered Russia’s actions to be a genocide, which the UN defines as an intentional effort to wipe out a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.
He also didn’t explain adding “both Ukrainian and Russian” — though the Russian military has experienced high casualties in the war its civilian population has come to harm on the scale of Ukraine’s.
The term “genocide” has widely been employed by Ukrainian officials, citing evidence of the killing of civilians and efforts to erase Ukrainian identity in occupied territories and deport Ukrainian children to Russia.
Russia vehemently denies harming civilian in its war, despite evidence of the damage. The UN set up a commission to investigate whether a genocide is taking place in Ukraine — on Monday its head said it did not yet have enough evidence to say.
Elsewhere in his interview, Kuzminov detailed how he arranged his defection with Ukrainian intelligence operatives, who said they spent six months planning the operation.
Kuzminov said he took his chance while flying close to the border one day. He said he transmitted his location to Ukraine’s military, then landed at a base about 186 miles away from the frontline.
Kuzminov’s family was also smuggled out of Russia by Ukrainian operatives, per the interview.