The Russian pilot who defected with stolen fighter-jet parts will get a $500,000 reward, Ukraine says

  • A Russian pilot who surrendered to Ukraine is set to receive a $500,000 reward from the war-torn country.

  • Ukraine passed a law last year offering up to $1 million to Russian troops for stolen equipment.

  • The pilot is now encouraging others to follow his lead.

The Russian pilot who defected to Ukraine is poised to get a hefty reward from his home country's sworn enemy.

The helicopter pilot, whom Ukrainian military intelligence identified as a 28-year-old named Maksym Kuzminov, surrendered to Ukraine last month, bringing with him a Mi-8 helicopter and stolen fighter-jet parts. His arrival in Ukraine was said to have marked the end of a six-month secret defection plot he had worked out with Ukraine that included moving his family out of Russia.

A Ukrainian military-intelligence spokesperson, Andrii Yusov, announced Ukraine would be rewarding the pilot with the equivalent of $500,000, The Kyiv Independent reported.

In April 2022, the Ukrainian parliament passed a law offering rewards for Russian troops who transferred military equipment to Ukraine. The pilot is one of only a few Russians whom Ukraine has publicly touted as handing over vehicles.

"What is happening now is simply genocide of the Ukrainian people," the pilot said in a video released by Ukraine's Defense Intelligence, according to a CNN translation. "The motivation for my action was to not contribute to these crimes. Ukraine will unequivocally win this war simply because the people are very united."

"The whole world is helping them," he added, according to CNN. "Because first and foremost, human life should be valued."

The pilot is now encouraging other Russian troops to follow his example and abandon Russia's war.

Correction: September 6, 2023 — An earlier version of this story incorrectly described Ukrainian efforts to get Russian troops to surrender and turn over military equipment. The Ukrainian "I want to live" program started in September 2022, not April 2022, and was separate from Ukraine's April 2022 plan to reward Russians who turn over military equipment. A reference to the "I want to live" program was removed from the story. The story also misspelled the name of a Ukrainian military-intelligence spokesperson. It's Andrii Yusov, not Andrii Yusova.

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