Ukraine pays hefty rewards to Russians who surrender equipment

By Dénes Albert
3 Min Read

The defection of a Russian pilot with a Mi-8 military transport helicopter has revealed how much the Ukrainians pay for the functional Russian weapons that are handed over. Russian soldiers are promised $1 million for a plane, $500,000 for a helicopter, and $100,000 for a tank.

For Ukraine, such operations are quite profitable, even in a purely commercial sense. The cost of the same Mi-8 helicopter starts at $6 million. And as part of Operation Sinai, Ukraine not only received a new Russian helicopter with an armored cockpit, but also valuable data about the Russian Federation’s air force.

The Ukrainian Army Intelligence Service (GUR) released an interview with a man it says is a Russian pilot who defected last month along with the Mi-8 combat helicopter he was flying, CNN reports. The soldier, whose name is Maxim Kuzminov, told how he devised and carried out his plan:

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“I contacted Ukrainian intelligence, explained my situation, and they offered me this possibility: ‘Come, we guarantee your safety, we guarantee you new documents, we guarantee you financial compensation,'” Kuzmimov said.

The Russian pilot says he later worked out the other details with Ukrainian intelligence agents, including a flight path. Regarding the defection reported by Ukrainian media on Aug. 23, Kuzminov said, “I realized that I was near the border. I relayed my position and said, ‘Let’s try, I’m not far away.'”

The pilot explained that after making the final decision to defect, he flew at an extremely low altitude and maintained complete radio silence.

“Nobody understood at all what was going on with me…. I flew (to Ukraine), I landed, they met me, they explained everything,” he said. The pilot also urged other Russians in the military to defect to Ukraine.

“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,” he said.

CNN notes, however, that it has been unable to verify the pilot’s identity. However, Agenstvo, an independent Russian Telegram channel, claims to have found Kuzminov’s social media profile and that he was an attack pilot with the 319th helicopter regiment in the Eastern Military District.

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