Murder of Maksim Kuzminov: Did Russian Secret Services Operate in Vila Joiosa?

  • The court has ordered the proceedings to be kept secret, and as the hours pass, Russia's involvement in the crime seems more likely.

Cala Finestrat
Esperança Camps Barber
20.02.2024 - 19:00
Actualització: 20.02.2024 - 20:42

“We don’t have data, we can’t confirm or deny anything, not even how many bullet impacts the corpse had. We tell this to all media outlets, and I hope you understand. I also hope the journalist from The New York Times who just called me understands.” 

The spokesperson for the Civil Guard command in Alacant, who has taken over the investigation into the murder of Russian pilot Maksim Kuzminov in Vila Joiosa (Marina Baixa), is more than tight-lipped when questioned. It has been reported that what was initially referred to as suspected revenge has now taken on a different hue because it could be an execution.

An execution by Russian secret services against a defector who embarrassed them? The Spanish government spokeswoman was asked this yesterday after the Council of Ministers, and she dodged the question. As is customary in such cases, she invoked the secrecy of the investigation, which is still ongoing and has seen a plot twist in the last few hours.

The clerk at the Baltica supermarket and the owner of the Rosa dels Vents restaurant are also tight-lipped. They don’t know anything, they are calm, they haven’t seen anything, and they say that the cove of Vila is a very peaceful place. However, yesterday the media kept asking them questions. Even a team from a Russian television approached to gather the impressions of the neighbors and try to find out more about the deserter’s life.

Russians and Ukrainians in La Cala

Vila Joiosa is a municipality of about 35,000 inhabitants and is the capital of the Marina Baixa region. Popularly known as La Vila.

According to the latest data, there are 1,200 registered Russian citizens and 800 Ukrainians. When Russia invaded Ukraine two years ago, Vila was one of the first municipalities to express solidarity with that country. On March 2, 2022, a convoy organized by the local police left with more than two tons of materials.

Following the war, many Ukrainian citizens fleeing found refuge in this peaceful place in winter and much more populated in summer. 

Many rented apartments in La Cala -the local cove- at relatively affordable prices and live there all year round, although it is a coastal and summer place. It is common to find students of this nationality in the town’s schools perfectly integrated.

La Cala, the place where the Russian pilot was murdered, is a residential and tourist neighborhood. It is about five minutes by car from the town center towards Finestrat. La Vila, Finestrat, and Benidorm are three consecutive terms that share ownership of La Cala. There was a certain dispute at one time. In fact, although part of it belongs to Vila, it is popularly known as Cala de Finestrat. From the rocky beach, you can see the cluster of apartment blocks and apartments that almost pour into the sea.

The neighborhood has services such as a health center or a local police office. As they are fixed, and some streets belong to one municipality, and others to another, Finestrat and La Vila collaborate by organizing common activities for the neighbors, such as the Three Kings parade or Carnival.

La Vila is not Altea

In the Vila area, the most characteristic buildings are apartment blocks mainly dedicated to tourist rentals during the summer season. The urbanization where Kuzminov was murdered is on Marinada Street and consists of five towers with 40 apartments each, common services, gardens, swimming pools, and underground garages. It is therefore an area that guarantees a certain level of security and anonymity.

The construction model is not similar, for example, to that of Altea, a few kilometers away, where there has been a colony of Russian citizens with high purchasing power for some years now. They are oligarchs raised and enriched in the shadow of Vladimir Putin and own luxury properties such as the emblematic Altea Hills urbanization or the Campomanes nautical club in the Mascarat area. Impressive yachts dock at the club’s moorings, some of which were seized following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In Altea, there is also an Orthodox Church.

In Altea Hills, for example, Alexey Shirokov resided, considered a member of the Russian mafia who in October was prosecuted for laundering money from organized crime. He and four others were accused of the crimes of criminal organization and money laundering. In addition, the investigating judge in the case described Shirokov as a lobbyist for the PP of Altea.

The deserter seeking refuge in Vila

Despite the difference in the model between one population and another, all these municipalities on the Costa Blanca are connected. That is why it is not ruled out that Maksim Kuznínov, whose image was widely disseminated when he deserted, was detected by one of his compatriots.

The pilot, 28 years old, changed sides in August and switched to Ukrainian with the combat helicopter he was piloting and various strategic documentation. The two soldiers accompanying him died in the operation. This was a highly publicized case because it was planned with the Ukrainian army, which, according to propaganda, paid him half a million dollars and provided him with fake documentation stating he was thirty-three years old.

For a few months, he took refuge in Ukraine, but in December 2023, Maksim moved to the La Cala urbanization in Vila, where he was found dead on Tuesday the 13th. He had at least five gunshot wounds, and his executioner shot him in the second basement of an apartment block garage. He tried to flee but fell dead on the ramp leading to the first basement. Security cameras from a real estate agency captured the entry and exit of the executors’ car. A gardener working on the premises did not hear any of the shots, so investigators suspect they were silenced. The car was found burnt in the Solana ravine, between Vila and Campello, at kilometer 128 of the N-332 road.

Suspicions arose when it was discovered that the information he carried was false.

Although there is no official confirmation that the victim in Vila is Kuzmínov, the head of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, Sergey Naryshkin, hurried to identify him and qualify him as a traitor with a phrase that, if it did not justify the murder, came very close: “This traitor and criminal became a moral corpse the moment he planned his dirty and terrible crime,” he said.



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