Russia Says Ukraine Tried to Make Strategic Bomber Defect

Russia on Monday said it had foiled an attempt by Kyiv to get a Russian military pilot to defect with his strategic bomber to Ukrainian-held territory.

The FSB security service said in a statement that “the secret services of NATO countries” were involved in the plan to capture a TU-22M3 bomber plane.

It said Ukraine had promised the pilot financial compensation and Italian citizenship “to persuade him to land the strategic bomber in Ukraine.”

The FSB said it had been able to obtain information during the counter-espionage operation that allowed Russian forces to strike an air base in Ukraine.

In recent days, Russian forces have carried out several strikes on Ukrainian air bases as Kyiv awaits the delivery of F-16 fighter jets promised by the West.

Ukraine last year persuaded a Russian pilot, Maxim Kuzminov, to defect with his Mi-8 helicopter into Ukrainian territory.

The deserter was found dead in Spain in February. Russia has been accused of assassinating enemies at home and abroad but has always denied the allegations.

Kyiv regularly accuses Russia of trying to recruit from the Ukrainian side.

Ukraine’s SBU security service said in May that it had dismantled a network of FSB agents preparing to assassinate President Volodymyr Zelensky and arrested two Ukrainian officers accused of being part of the plot.

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