One of Putin’s commanders used two military helicopters to transport his pet cat, with one chopper flying the animal and another sent to provide cover, according to a pilot who defected.
The animal was transported in a multimillion-pound helicopter while the other one covered for around an hour, the New Voice of Ukraine reported, citing an interview between Maksim Kuzminov, 28, a former Russian serviceman, and Ukrainian journalist Volodymyr Zolkin.
Kuzminov is set to be handed a £398,000 reward for defecting and Ukraine’s intelligence department said he is now urging others in Russians to follow in his footsteps.
When asked if there have been any irrational or illogical uses of pilots and aviation, Kuzminov said that there have been ‘numerous cases’
He said: ‘Our commander needed to transport a cat, which had some impressive pedigree.
‘To do this, two Mi-8 and Mi-24 [helicopter] crews were assigned. So, two helicopters transported this wonderful animal, so to speak, from Rostov to Yeysk [air base] — the Mi-8 was flying the cat in, while the Mi-24 was circling to provide cover.’
Maksim Kuzminov, 28, said: ‘two Mi-8 and Mi-24 [helicopter] crews were assigned. So, two helicopters transported this wonderful animal, so to speak, from Rostov to Yeysk [air base] — the Mi-8 was flying the cat in, while the Mi-24 was circling to provide cover’.
One of the military helicopters used in the operation. ‘We burned a lot of fuel, resources; furthermore, the crews aren’t always allowed to rest,’ Kuzminov said, adding that the Russian Air Force ‘lacks trained pilots’
Kuzminov said there were six military personnel on board and the flight took around an hour.
‘We burned a lot of fuel, resources; furthermore, the crews aren’t always allowed to rest,’ he said, adding that the Russian Air Force ‘lacks trained pilots’.
He said this was just one example of senior commanders in the Russian military who ‘live for their own pleasure’.
Kuzminov said that, in general, Russian troops are ‘left to their own devices’ and the commanders ‘never have time to deal with it — they have their own problems’.
On August 23, Kuzminov landed a Russian Mi-8 helicopter in Poltava Oblast, in central Ukraine and gave up the aircraft to the enemy.
Official sources later confirmed this was the end point of an operation spanning over six months by Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence.
As well as the helicopter, the transfer also included spare parts for Su-30 and Su-27 fighter jets.
Now Kuzminov insists that there are no Nazis in Ukraine, as Moscow regularly claims, and he has accused Vladimir Putin of ‘genocide’ of both Ukrainians and Russians by conducting the war.
Appearing on television in an interview on Sunday night, Kuzminov, who sported a black T-shirt with the Ukrainian trident on it, said: ‘The truth is, there are no Nazis or fascists [in Ukraine]. It’s a real disgrace what is happening here. Murder, tears, blood. People are simply killing each other. That’s all I can make of this and I don’t want to be a part of it. What is going on now is simply the genocide of the Ukrainian people. Both Ukrainian and Russian.’
Captain Maksim Kuzminov, 28, pilot of Russian Mi-8 helicopter, who flew over to Ukraine to defect in August 2023
Two of Kuzminov’s fellow crew members were did not know that he planned to fly into Ukraine and were ‘eliminated’ when the helicopter landed, said Kyrylo Budanov, 37, head of Ukrainian intelligence
He said he defected to take a stand against ‘genocide’ and called on others in the Russian military to do the same.
Kuzminov said it was his idea to switch sides, adding: ‘I got in touch with representatives of the Ukrainian military intelligence and explained my situation to them.
‘They offered me a deal to promise me safety, new documents and a reward.’
Two of Kuzminov’s fellow crew members were did not know that he planned to fly into Ukraine and were ‘eliminated’ when the helicopter landed, said Kyrylo Budanov, 37, head of Ukrainian intelligence.
‘We would prefer [to take] them alive, but it is what it is.’
Kuzminov was from the 319th separate helicopter regiment of military unit 13984 in the Primorsky region of eastern Russia.
He was transporting spare parts for Russian fighters when he diverted and flew to Ukraine.
He and his family are now in Ukraine, having been evacuated from Russia in advance.
‘We found an approach to this Russian pilot. We were able to quietly take out his entire family, and then created the conditions for the flight of the aircraft,’ Budanov added.
‘Now the pilot feels great, he is doing well.’