Ukraine is reportedly paying huge rewards to Russian defectors who surrender their military equipment to Kyiv.
Remix News recounted one such instance involving a Russian helicopter pilot turning over the aircraft for a significant sum of money. Under Ukraine’s Operation Sinai, Russian soldiers are promised $1 million for a plane; $500,000 for a helicopter; and $100,000 for a tank. In return, Kyiv obtains not only equipment from Moscow, but valuable information about its military.
The Ukrainian Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR), which is under the country’s Ministry of Defense, released an interview featuring Mi-8 military transport helicopter pilot Maxim Kuzminov, who defected in August.
Kuzminov recounted: “I contacted Ukrainian intelligence [and] explained my situation. They offered me this possibility: ‘Come, we guarantee your safety, we guarantee you new documents, we guarantee you financial compensation.'” He later worked out the other details, including his planned flight path, with Ukrainian intelligence agents – culminating in his Aug. 23 defection that Ukrainian media outlets reported.
“I realized that I was near the border. I relayed my position and said, ‘Let’s try, I’m not far away.’ Nobody understood at all what was going on with me. I flew [to Ukraine], I landed, they met me [and] they explained everything.”
Following his final decision to defect, Kuzminov flew at an extremely low altitude and maintained complete radio silence. He also urged other Russians to defect to Kyiv, saying: “You will be entertained, for the rest of your life. You will be offered a job, no matter what you do. You will simply discover a world in color.”
The independent Russian Telegram channel Agenstvo claims to have found Kuzminov’s social media profile. According to the outlet, the defector was an attack pilot with the 319th Helicopter Regiment in the Russian Armed Forces’ Eastern Military District.
Seized equipment could be sold for a hefty amount on the black market
Remix News pointed out that “for Ukraine, such operations are quite profitable – even in a purely commercial sense.” This is because military equipment such as the Mi-8 helicopter handed over by Kuzminov can be sold on the black market for a hefty amount, with criminal elements as ready and willing buyers. The same can be applied to equipment sent by the U.S. and other countries to aid Kyiv in its battle against Moscow.
One clear example of this was outlined in a Russia Today article. According to the piece, the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) disclosed in a report that some of the military equipment Washington supplied to Kyiv “have fallen into the hands of criminal groups, volunteer fighters and traffickers.” (Related: Pentagon report: Huge amount of U.S. military aid to Ukraine has been stolen by criminal organizations and arms traffickers.)
The October 2022 report outlined “challenges” in tracking U.S.-provided military equipment being shipped to Ukraine, including the “inability of DoD personnel to visit areas where equipment provided to Ukraine was being used or stored.”
The DoD report recounted that in June of that year, an organized crime group allegedly overseen by an “unspecified Russian official” infiltrated a volunteer battalion. The group stole various weapons, including a grenade launcher and a machine gun, as well as more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition. That same month, a group of Ukrainian criminals posing as aid workers stole $17,000 worth of bulletproof vests.
Another incident in August 2022 involved members of a volunteer battalion. The suspects stole 60 rifles and almost 1,000 rounds of ammunition, “presumably for sale on the black market.” All three plots were foiled by the Security Service of Ukraine, and the stolen items were recovered.
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