The Russian pilot who defected to Ukraine was shot 5 times while less than 500 feet away from a police station: WSJ

  • Maksym Kuzminov was a Russian helicopter pilot who defected to Ukraine in August.

  • Kuzminov was living in Spain under a false identity until he was killed in February.

  • An official investigating the murder said the Kremlin may have been involved in the killing, WSJ reported.

Maksym Kuzminov, the 28-year-old Russian helicopter pilot who defected to Ukraine in August and later moved to Spain, was shot five times while less than 500 feet away from a local police station, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Kuzminov met a harrowing fate in February when he was killed in the small coastal town of Villajoyosa, where he was living under a false identity.

Speaking with Kuzminov's neighbors, witnesses, and authorities, The Journal reported new details of the Russian pilot's defection last year and his death on February 13.

According to the report, Kuzminov's body was found less than 500 feet away from a police station, and authorities could have responded within minutes. But by then, Kuzminov was likely already dead, witnesses told the newspaper.

"When I called the emergency phone number, I already knew that the man was dead," the building manager of the condominium where Kuzminov was staying told The Journal.

A medic found five small-caliber shots, one of which directly hit his heart, revealing the accuracy with which the perpetrator killed Kuzminov, according to the report.

A suspect has yet to be identified, but an official working on the investigation told The Journal that investigators believe the Kremlin was involved in the pilot's killing.

Kuzminov's fate was widely seen as part of a string of mysterious Russian deaths that have sparked suspicions around the Kremlin's efforts to take out Russian leader Vladimir Putin's critics.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner mercenary group who staged a mutiny against Russian military leadership, died in August in a plane crash outside a Moscow airport.

Western intelligence officials and a former Russian intelligence officer told The Journal last year that Nikolai Patrushev, a close associate of Putin, orchestrated his death.

Earlier in February, Alexey Navalny, one of Putin's most vocal political opponents, was found dead in the Arctic penal colony where he was serving a 19-year sentence. A medical report indicated that Navalny died of natural causes, but that has not stopped many, including Navalny's family and the Biden Administration, from believing foul play may have been involved.

"Make no mistake, Putin is responsible for Navalny's death," President Joe Biden told reporters in a press conference on February 16.

Following reports of Kuzminov's death, Moscow's foreign intelligence chief Sergei Naryshkin appeared to support the Russian pilot's fate.

"This traitor and criminal became a moral corpse at the very moment he planned his dirty and terrible crime," Naryshkin told the Russian state news agency TASS about a week after Kuzminov's death.

Read the original article on Business Insider