Russian Pilot Who Defected Tells Others to Follow: ‘You Will Not Regret It’


Two Ukrainian Military MI-8 helicopters fly at a low altitude in the Kharkiv region, on April 2, 2023. The Russian Mi-8 helicopter pilot who reportedly defected to Ukraine last month spoke publicly about his decision in an interview with Ukraine defense intelligence.GENYA SAVILOV/AFP VIA GETTY

The 28-year-old Russian helicopter pilot who reportedly defected to Ukraine last month is encouraging other Moscow fighters to do the same, according to an interview released by the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine, saying they “will not regret it at all.”

Maskym Kuzminov, whom Ukraine officials identified as the captain of the Russian Mi-8AMTSh helicopter that landed at a military air base in Kharkiv in August, spoke publicly about his decision to defect from the Russian Air Force in the documentary Downed Russian Pilots, which was published to YouTube on Sunday and aired on Ukrainian television.

Newsweek was unable to independently verify Kuzminov’s identity. A Telegram channel associated with independent Russian news outlet The Project said it confirmed the pilot’s identity through social media.

Ukrainian Chief of Defense Intelligence Kyrylo Budanov previously said that a deal was reached with Kuzminov after Kyiv promised to get the pilot’s family safely out of Russia. The fighter captain was reportedly stationed in the eastern Primorye region as part of Russia’s 319th separate helicopter regiment and said that he contacted Ukraine intelligence himself.

“I contacted representatives of the intelligence of Ukraine, explained my situation,” Kuzminov said, according to a section of his interview that was translated to English by Ukraine intelligence. “I was offered security guarantees, new documents, monetary compensation, a reward. We discussed the details and started planning my flight directly.”

The defection operation, which was kept under the code name “Synytsia,” took roughly six months to complete, according to the documentary. Kuzminov successfully traveled across the Ukrainian border with two other unsuspecting crew members on board the Mi-8, but Kyiv officials said that both individuals were killed after they attempted to escape once the helicopter had landed.

Russian propaganda outlets had claimed in late August that one of Moscow’s helicopter pilots had gotten lost and mistakenly landed on a Ukrainian airfield, according to a report by security analyst and journalist Jimmy Rushton. Kuzminov, however, rejected the allegations.

Kuzminov said during his interview that he “flew at extremely low altitude in radio silence mode” in order to cross into Ukraine without being detected.

“No one knew what was wrong with me,” he added. “Apparently, no one understood what happened for 3-4 days.”

“What is happening now is simply genocide of the Ukrainian people: both Ukrainian and Russian,” the pilot continued, adding during his interview, “No one wants this war.”

Kuzminov also called on his fellow Russian pilots to follow his lead.

“You will not regret it at all,” he said. “You will simply discover a world of colors. And remember: you just don’t know a lot, you haven’t seen how other people live. When you really discover something, you will fundamentally change your opinion.”

Newsweek reached out to the Russian Defense Ministry via email for comment.


  1. “What is happening now is simply genocide of the Ukrainian people: both Ukrainian and Russian,” the pilot continued, adding during his interview, “No one wants this war.”

    I certainly wish he hadn’t included RuZZian people in a vain attempt to appear even-handed.
    I know he means that the genocide of Russians is also down to putler, but the statement lost power by being inclusive.

  2. “I certainly wish he hadn’t included RuZZian people in a vain attempt to appear even-handed.”

    it’s always tempting to twist reality to one’s prejudices…. 🙂

    passing by an article on the Russia-Germany-China axis – without mentioning the article in its entirety or its relevance, there was a sentence which should set off an alert in any brain : “Russia will be a pariah forever” ( if you want to create an enemy for tomorrow it’s a very good method).

    the intelligence of the USA at the end of WWII was to have proposed a path of reconstruction to get out of hatred.
    you did shit but by going on this path you will find honor and dignity and mutually enriching relationships with your neighbors…

    • “you did shit but by going on this path you will find honor and dignity and mutually enriching relationships with your neighbors…”

      That can work only if the ruskie people want it to work. But, if they can’t or don’t want to shake off their imperialism, then we can forget about mafia land to being anything else but a fascist shithole.

  3. “It can only work if the Russians want it to work.”
    we agree that we are talking about a developing process… that what was true yesterday will not necessarily be true tomorrow… that we are in a kind of “therapy”.
    there are invariants, human mechanics, group phenomena, influence phenomena, predictable things that we can more or less calculate.

    in any group the proportion of people who will never do shit, the resisters and the “Righteous” represent 15-20 percent.
    all the others are between I’m afraid, I close my eyes, I’m waiting for the right moment or worse… so from Ponomarev to Kara Murza when you take 25 years in prison to give your vision of the world he doesn’t there aren’t many.
    we know today that there are 15 percent of “turbo-patriots”, irredeemable criminal scum.
    in the rest there must be (as in Milgram’s experiment) Russians who must be angry that the Ukrainians do not submit like them for this to stop,
    people who are hurt by the Ukrainians’ disenchantment with the “Russian world”, people who prefer to believe that Ukrainians are Nazis because otherwise that means that they are the biggest bastards…
    (when we say that someone is a Nazi it allows us to lower their social value to zero. and also no one can be more cruel or a bastard than a Nazi which allows the Russians to allow themselves everything without limit and without to get dirty.)

    We know that Elsine’s 2nd election was already stolen, that Putin’s arrival in power was also fabricated/manipulated, which should allow some Russians not to feel responsible for the violence of their leader.
    Now when Prigozhin rode to Moscow – no one came out to save the “father of the nation”…
    all Russians who have 2 neurons and who feel more European than Asian understand that they are on the path to becoming the new North Korea and that they are going to die with “grandpa”… it’s a project of life and a social project that is not very salesy… which should not sell itself!

    when people are not intoxicated, full of hatred or misplaced pride, overall they aspire to live peacefully, as comfortably as possible.
    Currently Putin’s Russia is producing its “Hitler Youth” for its future wars. which is rather a problem.

    how quickly Putin loses power will determine the chaos that follows behind.
    the first to be able to recover Putin’s power are the worst extremists, and the question, since no one can go to Moscow to free the old fool who has always been at war and who has an interest in fighting until he dies – the question is how to bring about a situation/people that will stop the vicious circle…
    there is no need to specify that of course Putin makes fun of Russia and the Russian people. he doesn’t care so much that he rewrites history, the truth, reality doesn’t interest him, he’s just a narcissistic asshole who is threatened: his mode of control of the world, his mode of influence, ( corruption etc) are threatened by Ukraine’s European desires… he has transformed the oligarchs into piggy banks and Putin’s pockets are like the empire, they have no borders either. he has stolen so much that he will not be able to keep anything without remaining in power. he cannot stay in power if next to him Ukraine becomes a land of plenty… hence the need at worst to destroy as much as possible. poutine is the guy at the back of the class who ruins everything he touches and who doesn’t want others to succeed.
    the old mafioso only understands terror – and for the moment – we don’t terrorize him much…

    for the moment the Russians are not really paying the price of the war… only the most disadvantaged populations (financially intellectually and probably morally) feel it but it is still an abstraction for the others.
    They are even more afraid of Poutine and of understanding the abyss they are heading towards than how to get out of this situation. when the fear of the abyss and the “price to pay” of the war will be stronger than that of Putin and the established order the situation will change , but of course it won’t happen in 5 minutes…

    It turns out that drones and missiles make fun of rasputitsa so the Russian winter should be interesting and educational.

    we are cured of imperialism. certainly when you have dominated someone you always have a little difficulty reinventing your relationship – it can take time – but men of good will also know how to tear down mountains.
    to put an end to imperialism which relies on “Great Russia”, cleaning up Belarus and Ukraine will be a good start to healing.

    • “when we say that someone is a Nazi it allows us to lower their social value to zero. and also no one can be more cruel or a bastard than a Nazi which allows the Russians to allow themselves everything without limit and without to get dirty.”

      There’s something that’s called intelligence – and even if this is missing, we have something that’s called common sense. It seems that for your thesis to be true, the ruskies have none of those two. That’s a real problem when you let others (kremlin and its useful idiots) do the thinking for you.

  4. I’ve just seen your reply.
    the nazi talk was useful, especially at the beginning, but it creates a climate and gives you a crutch. recently a Ukrainian asked a Russian prisoner if they were Nazis and the prisoner replied you’re civilized Nazis… !
    do you think they’ll easily admit that they’re the great cuckolds and bastards of history?
    they’ve made a pact of cowardly freedom in exchange for security, they’re corruptible, living in a dishonest system under pressure…
    by now, there must also be the Stockholm syndrome, which means that even when linked to an asshole, their greatest chance of survival is always with him…

    in short, there are many different cases: there’s a delta between the person who committed suicide to avoid going to war to kill Ukrainians and the one who saw that there was money to be made…
    given the propaganda, the state of the country under stress, the repression, we think less well under certain conditions…
    the difference with the Ukrainians is that the Russians were the dominant ones in the “Russsian world”, and they always had the advantage of allowing themselves to be carried along and even confiscating the floor. their strategy at least enabled them to survive.
    it’s time for them to take stock, and the lesson is going to be very painful: there’s blood everywhere (the Turks have never recognized the Armenian genocide, because the amount of shit they have to eat is too big).

    the brain is a fragile little thing anyway, it doesn’t take much to upset it.
    when the truth is unbearable, there’s denial, denial of reality…
    for example, isn’t pregnancy denial incredible in itself?
    you’ve got the whole mystery of the brain and perceptions inside you! how a process of blindness becomes dazzling in the end or not with I become a mother in 2 minutes or it remains a piece of external meat that I throw away…
    if not, I’m thinking of an experiment: they get a guinea pig into a classroom full of people and a teacher asks questions one after the other… and each time everyone gives the wrong answer… at first the guinea pig answers right and pretty soon he says wrong like everyone else.

    in short, the brain, the conscience, needs to be modest in normal circumstances, so what’s more, we’ve been under the influence for 20 years, in troubled times…
    still, we’re in an evolutionary process… like mourning, for example, and it takes time…

    one day it’s going to stop, and in Russia the blind cuckolds, the dishonest cuckolds, the murderous cuckolds, the crippled cuckolds will all be living together… the mountain to climb to regain peace, serenity and proper social functioning is going to be colossal…

Enter comments here: