A still from an video showing a pilot Ukraine says defected with his helicopter.
YouTube/Defence Intelligence of Ukraine
A Russian pilot defected and brought his helicopter to Ukraine last month, Ukrainian officials said.
The pilot said his crew couldn’t stop him as he was the only one on board who knew how to fly it.
He told journalists that the crew panicked and fled. Ukrainian officials said both were killed.
A Russian pilot who Ukraine said defected and brought over his helicopter said his crew panicked when they figured out what was happening, but they couldn’t do anything as he was the only person on board who could fly it.
Ukrainian officials said a six-month plot led to the Russian Mi-8 AMTSh landing at a military air base in Kharkiv, in northeast Ukraine, last month.
Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence identified the pilot as Maksym Kuzminov, a 28-year-old former captain in Russia’s 319th separate helicopter regiment.
Kuzminov spoke at a press conference on Tuesday where he described panic among the other Russians on board, The Daily Beast reported.
“There were two crew members with me. We didn’t have any weapons, our pilots fly without weapons,” he said.
“Nobody could put up any resistance,” he added, because no one else on board knew how to fly the helicopter.
“I was calming the guys down, I told them everything was fine, that good people live here and everything will be great. But they started to get scared and behave themselves a bit aggressively, and they ran from the helicopter towards the border,” he said.
The head of Ukraine’s intelligence agency, Kyrylo Budanov, previously told Radio Free Europe that the other two crew members on board were not aware Kuzminov was defecting, and they were “eliminated” when they tried to flee.
They had refused to surrender, Ukrainian officials said.
Kuzminov previously said that he abandoned the Russian military to avoid being part of what he called the “genocide of the Ukrainian people.”
On Tuesday he said that other Russian troops should also defect so as to not “enable these crimes.”
Kuzminov is now seeking to join Ukraine’s aviation operations, according to The Beast.
He said in a previous video released by Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence that “Ukraine will unequivocally win this war” because its people are united.
Kuzminov earlier said that his family was smuggled out of Russia before his defection took place.