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September 5, 2023 – Russia and Ukraine news

8:23 PM ET, September 5, 2023

How a Russian helicopter pilot flew across the border and defected to Ukraine

By CNN’s Josh Pennington and Maria Kostenko

A Russian Mil Mi-8 military helicopter patrols oil fields in northeastern Syria’s Hasakah province on February 4, 2021. The defected Russian pilot flew a Mi-8 helicopter, similar to the one shown in the photo, to Ukraine.

Dalil Suleiman/AFP/Getty Images/File

a Russian helicopter pilot The man who defected to Ukraine last month revealed details of the daring operation to fly across the border into his country Mi8 Combat helicopter, in an interview published by Ukrainian Defense Intelligence.

The pilot, identified by Ukrainian officials as Maxim Kuzminov, explained in the interview how he planned the defection and why he felt compelled to do so.

“I called Ukrainian intelligence representatives, explained my situation, and they offered them this option: Come on, we guarantee your safety, we guarantee new documents, we guarantee financial compensation, a reward,” the pilot said in a recording released Monday. .

Last August, the head of Ukrainian Defense Intelligence, Kirolo Budanov, revealed how Ukrainian officials were able to help the pilot defect.

“We were able to create conditions to get his entire family out without being detected, and ultimately create conditions so that he could take over this plane with a crew that did not know what was happening,” Budanov told Radio Liberty at the time.

“He had two other people with him – a whole crew of three people. When they realized where they had landed, they tried to escape. Unfortunately, they were wiped out. We would prefer (to take them) alive, but that is the way it is.”

In the interview published on Monday, the pilot explained in detail how the event developed.

During one flight, the pilot said: “I realized I was near the border. I moved my position. I said: ‘Let’s try, I’m not that far away.’” After making the final decision, I flew very low in radio silence. He didn’t understand Nobody that ever happened to me.”

The pilot said that he was able to land in Ukraine, where he was received by Ukrainian officials.

The circumstances of the interview are unclear, but it appears that the pilot was speaking freely.

Read more about the trip to Ukraine

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