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Russian Mi-8 army helicopter (2022)

Photo: Vadim Savitskii / SNA / IMAGO

A Russian helicopter pilot who defected to Ukraine is dead, according to information from Kiev. "We can confirm this fact," Ukrainian military intelligence spokesman Andriy Yussov told public television on Monday. He did not provide any further information about the circumstances of his death.

According to media reports, the body was found in Spain. "He brought his ex over and was found shot," wrote the internet portal Ukrainskaya Pravda, citing its own intelligence sources. There was no confirmation from Spanish authorities.

Upon request, the Spanish Interior Ministry told SPIEGEL that a dead person with multiple gunshot wounds was actually found last Tuesday in Villajoyosa, a city in the province of Alicante. In the course of the investigation, all that has been discovered so far is that the person may have been registered under a false identity. Everything else is still being checked.

According to a local Spanish report, the Guardia Civil is investigating the suspected murder of a 33-year-old man described as "Ukrainian." A neighbor found the victim in a garage on February 13th; the body was said to have multiple gunshot wounds.

The pilot flew from Russia to Ukraine in August last year with a fully equipped Mi-8 army helicopter. After landing at a Ukrainian military airfield, the other two crew members were shot while trying to escape, according to Ukrainian sources. The Russian received the equivalent of over 460,000 euros from Kiev for the crime. State television in Moscow reported in the fall that the Russian secret service had received the order to kill the man who was considered a traitor.

Ukraine has been fending off a Russian invasion for almost two years. In April 2022, Kiev set rewards for functional Russian military equipment handed over to Ukraine. The Ukrainian state promises Russian defectors the equivalent of over 920,000 euros as the maximum reward for a fighter aircraft.