April 16, 2024

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'The Kremlin is behind the atrocities': Russian fugitive allegedly killed in Spain by assassins sent by Moscow |  Ukraine-Russia war

'The Kremlin is behind the atrocities': Russian fugitive allegedly killed in Spain by assassins sent by Moscow | Ukraine-Russia war

The Spanish intelligence services have no doubt that the long arm of the Kremlin is behind an unprecedented crime in Spain: the murder of Russian fugitive Maxim Kozmenov (28 years old) in Alicante. Diplomatic sources admitted that this was a “very serious matter” and that Spain would provide a “strong response,” the Spanish newspaper El Pais wrote.

At first, the Guardia Civil thought it was a settlement between criminal gangs. His body was found riddled with six bullets on February 13 in an underground garage in Villajoyosa (Alicante), the city where he lived. After shooting the young man, the killers ran him over with their car, which was later found burned in the nearby town of El Campello.

look. Russian pilot who escaped found dead in Spain

When his identity had not yet been revealed, Russian state media were quick to be the first to announce Kuzminov's death. After Ukraine also confirmed the news, the head of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service, Sergei Naryshkin, ruled on Tuesday that the victim was a “criminal traitor” and a “walking corpse” since his defection to Ukraine.

A photo of the parking garage where the young Russian woman was killed. © Reuters

In September, Kuzminov made world news when it was announced that the Russian pilot had flown to Ukraine in an MI-8 attack helicopter and then escaped. Two Russian soldiers who were not aware of the escape plan and were also on board the helicopter were killed in the operation. The Russians immediately sued Kuzminov for “treason.” In October, Russian public television, which was then showing three suspected members of Russian military intelligence, claimed they had been ordered to eliminate the fugitive. One said: “He will not live long enough to be convicted.” The truth is that Russia previously announced the assassination of the defected pilot.

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Excerpt from a Ukrainian military intelligence service video of Russian helicopter pilot Maxim Kuzmenov who defected on August 9, 2023.
Excerpt from a Ukrainian military intelligence service video of Russian helicopter pilot Maxim Kuzmenov who defected on August 9, 2023. © Ukrainian Military Intelligence Service

Error in judgement

Then Kuzminov decided to settle in Spain on his own initiative. But the Russian got little taste of his new life.

The decision to settle in an area where many Russians and Ukrainians live was a big mistake, according to sources seen by El Pais. Alicante is the Spanish province with the largest Russian presence: more than 17,500 Russians live there. It was an error of judgment to think he would not be recognized there. He had false papers in the name of a 33-year-old Ukrainian citizen, but he did not receive any protection. Spanish intelligence was reportedly not officially informed of his arrival.

The apartment building in Villajoyosa where the former pilot lived.
The apartment building in Villajoyosa where the former pilot lived. © Reuters

Moreover, he called his ex-girlfriend in Russia from Spain to invite her to visit. According to some sources, this was the final clue that led Russian intelligence to track him down.

“He decided to move to Spain instead of staying in Ukraine. As far as we know, he invited his ex-partner to where he was, and he was later found shot dead there.

The killers' burned-out car was found further away.
The killers' burned-out car was found further away. © via Reuters

For its part, Spanish intelligence services suspect that Moscow sent assassins to kill the former pilot. After the murder, they allegedly fled across the border again. Russian secret services have a long history of murders on European soil. Spanish intelligence sources believe it is very likely that the Russian embassy in Spain was excluded from the operation to avoid exposure.

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The Spanish Civil Guard is investigating the parking garage where Kuzminov's body was found.
The Spanish Civil Guard is investigating the parking garage where Kuzminov's body was found. © via Reuters

For now, the Spanish government has reacted cautiously to the outside world after the facts. “We must allow the Civil Guard to do their work and wait for the investigation,” government spokeswoman Pilar Alegría said on Tuesday after the cabinet meeting. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev responded less subtly to the death of the defector pilot. He said: “A dog dies like a dog.” “I don't have anything else to say about that.”

look. Dmitry Medvedev's inaccurate reaction to the death of the Russian deserter:

However, the diplomatic sources consulted confirm that Spain cannot turn a blind eye to this particularly serious incident on Spanish soil. They added that if the involvement of the Russian authorities is confirmed, Spain will provide a “strong response.”

“We will find that traitor”: Russia previously announced the death of the defected pilot in Spain (+)

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