Russian deserter murdered in Spain

Russian military pilot Maxim Kuzminov made headlines in the summer of 2023 when he handed over his helicopter to Ukraine and received the equivalent of almost 500,000 euros for it. The 28-year-old went on to live under a false identity in Villajoyosa, Spain — where he has now been found shot dead in an underground car park. The investigation is ongoing but everything points to a murder ordered by Moscow, commentators observe.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Putin’s unchanging killer regime

For the West the case confirms two sad insights, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung sighs:

“Firstly, despite sanctions, travel restrictions and the expulsion of diplomats, the Russian leadership is still in a position to carry out commando operations deep in Western Europe. This is not flattering for Europe’s security services. On the other hand, the killer nature of the Putin regime remains unchanged, as the murder of the pilot comes after cases like the Skripal poisoning and the Berlin Tiergarten murder. Anyone arguing in favour of a settlement with Russia can see who they are trying to come to terms with.”

Nikolas Busse
El Español (ES) /

A warning for Madrid

El Español fears for Spain’s reputation:

“Although this is not the first murder committed by the Kremlin or the Russian mafia on European soil, the government should not treat it as if it were just an ordinary crime. ... The possibility of a Russian death squad operating with impunity in Spain poses a major problem. ... Kuzminov’s murder should be read as a warning for the Spanish government. ... Spain must not become the scene of extrajudicial executions. Let alone allow them to go unpunished. This problem concerns the police, but also diplomats — and our image abroad.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Hero or traitor?

La Stampa reflects on the meaning of the term "deserter":

“The traitor in uniform is a contradictory figure, caught in a vicious circle between good — avoiding being killed and taking part in the massacre — and evil — betraying his fellows in suffering. ... He lacks the comfortable veil that shrouds the political traitor, even the one armed with a dagger. Brutus betrays and kills, but he can become a hero when he shouts: ‘I do this to eliminate a tyrant’. Perhaps the pilot will be one of the first martyrs of the third Russian revolution that will bring Putin down. But can his uniformed comrades, lying panting in the snow in Avdiivka, think the same?”

Domenico Quirico