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Intelligence chief Budanov says psychological mistake led to Russian Mi-8 pilot assassination

Russian pilot Maxim Kuzminov, known for flying a Mi-8 helicopter from Russia to Ukraine, was killed in Spain in 2024.
Ukraine’s Intelligence Chief Kyrylo Budanov. Credit: Serhii Korovayny for the WSJ
Intelligence chief Budanov says psychological mistake led to Russian Mi-8 pilot assassination

The psychological mistake of Russian pilot Maxim Kuzminov, who flew a Mi-8 helicopter from Russia to Ukraine last year, led to his murder in Spain, according to Kyrylo Budanov, Chief of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine, BBC has reported.

On 23 August 2023, Budanov confirmed the completion of a special operation. It involved a Russian Mi-8 combat helicopter loaded with components for fighter aircraft flying into Ukraine and surrendering to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Russian pilot Maxim Kuzminov, who collaborated with Ukrainian intelligence, later expressed his positive attitude towards Ukraine during an interview with Ukrainian journalists. He described Ukraine as a “wonderful country with very good people,” emphasizing that he did not wish to contribute to any criminal activities.

This year, Maxim Kuzminov was killed in Spain in February, as per The New York Times. According to Spanish Civil Guard officers, on the morning of 13 February, a white Hyundai Tucson drove into the garage under Kuzminov’s building and parked in an empty space between the elevators used by residents and the exit to the street. Two men waited there for several hours.

That day, Kuzminov drove into the garage, parked his car, and walked towards the elevator. As he passed by the Hyundai, the two men got out of the car, shouted something at him, and opened fire. Despite being hit by six bullets, Kuzminov managed to run a short distance before collapsing. The two assailants got into the car and, as they drove away, ran over Kuzminov’s body.

“I would give you a very blunt answer about our conclusions. Unfortunately, it’s a classic psychological mistake that people make. When people relax and receive money, they tend to become careless about their security.

But at the same time, the desire for fame blinds everyone. People start saying things like, ‘Do you know who I am?’ or ‘Don’t tell anyone. It is only between us.’ Then they start calling girls from Russia, people they knew from the past, telling them how much money they have now, how wonderfully they live in Spain, and so on,” he said.

According to Budanov, Ukrainian intelligence should have prevented this and should have kept an eye on Kuzminov instead of taking his word for granted that he was an adult and knew how to handle things.

“We should have somehow prevented this, but unfortunately, these are not isolated cases. This behavior of people at different times and in different situations is a typical mistake. Unfortunately, we made it, too. We have to acknowledge that.

I have never been afraid to admit mistakes, and the same goes here. We should have still kept an eye on him instead of believing him that he is adult and knows how to handle things,” added the head of Ukrainian intelligence.

In the meantime, during the same interview, Budanov disclosed that another assassination attempt was being prepared against him.

“They are currently plotting something, but history shows their attempts often fail. It serves the interests of the Russians; it’s part of their agenda. They aim to recruit operatives locally. It’s standard operating procedure for them,” he stated.

Speaking with BBC journalists, the head of Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate, said an anticipated “complex situation” on the frontlines from mid-May-early June 2024.

Intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov warns of a “complex situation” on frontlines in mid-May

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