Left: A Russian Mi-8 military helicopter in Russia on January 19, 2022; Right: The Defense Intelligence of Ukraine published a video interview with a man identified as a Russian pilot who defected to Ukraine with a Mi-8 helicopter last month.
Left: REUTERS/Sergey Pivovarov; Right: Defense Intelligence of Ukraine
Russian pilot Maksym Kuzminov defected to Ukraine with a Mi-8 AMTSh helicopter last month.Kuzminov described how he crossed into Ukraine in a video shared by Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence.He flew 32 feet above the ground with his transponder off to avoid being spotted, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The pilot who pulled off a first-of-its-kind defection from Russia to Ukraine flew 32 feet above the ground with his transponder off to avoid being spotted, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.
The defection was first made public in late August, but additional details about the Russian pilot who flew a Mi-8 helicopter to Ukraine were released by Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence in a video posted on Sunday.
The August 9 mission was six months in the making, according to Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence, which said the stunt was pulled off by Maksym Kuzminov, formerly a captain in Russia’s 319th separate helicopter regiment.
In an interview published by Ukrainian officials, Kuzminov said he “flew at extremely low altitude in radio silence mode.
“No one knew what was wrong with me,” Kuzminov said of his flight into Ukraine.
Kuzminov said his helicopter was targeted by gunfire coming from an unclear direction when he crossed into Ukraine, the Journal reported.
Two other crew members were on board who were not aware of the defection and when they tried to flee they were “eliminated,” the head of Ukraine’s intelligence Kyrylo Budanov told Radio Free Europe in August.
At the end of 2022, Kuzminov, 28, reached out to Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence, jumpstarting the plan for him to flee Russia with the helicopter, the Journal reported. Kuzminov communicated with Ukrainian defense officials via the encrypted messaging app Telegram and came up with a plan to fly the stolen Russian helicopter into Ukraine.
Kuzminov’s parents were taken out of Russia before he defected.
Ukraine has sought to incentivize Russian troops to defect since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022. The Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, passed a law last year courting demoralized Russian troops and offering monetary rewards to Russians who defected with their equipment.
Defecting with a large piece of military equipment, like a helicopter, would earn him a $500,000 payout from the Ukrainian government and a guarantee of safety. Ukraine’s Military Intelligence spokesperson Andrii Yusova said Kuzminov will get his full compensation for the helicopter, the Kyiv Independent reported this week.
In the video, Kuzminov encouraged other pilots to defect and called Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine which began in February of 2022 a “crime.”