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FSB stops Ukrainian attempt to steal nuclear-capable bomber

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A Russian pilot was reportedly offered $3 million to steal a bomber and defect to Ukraine, according to Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). The FSB claimed it thwarted a Ukrainian attempt to hijack a Russian Tu-22M3 supersonic strategic bomber, disrupting the plan before it could unfold.

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Ukrainian intelligence allegedly tried to entice the pilot with a lucrative sum and the promise of Italian citizenship to defect and fly the missile-capable jet into Ukraine.

The Tu-22M3, known by NATO as “Backfire,” is pivotal in the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, frequently used to launch Kh-22 cruise missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. In revealing the plot, the FSB presented evidence, including intercepted communications, suggesting NATO countries’ involvement in the scheme.

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The anonymous pilot reported being approached through Telegram, where an individual claiming to be from Ukrainian intelligence threatened his family and instructed him to reroute the aircraft. He was also pressured to provide sensitive information about Russian military planes, including their tail numbers, technical conditions and maintenance schedules.

Under intense pressure to betray his country, the pilot alerted his commanders, enabling Russian forces to execute a targeted strike on the Ozerne airfield in northwestern Ukraine. This incident highlights the ongoing espionage and counterintelligence efforts in the region.

In a related story, Russian pilot Maxim Kuzminov, who last year defected to Ukraine under similar circumstances, was found dead in Spain in February 2024.

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[Lauren Taylor]

A RUSSIAN PILOT WAS OFFERED 3 MILLION DOLLARS TO STEAL A BOMBER AND DEFECT TO RUSSIA.

RUSSIA’S FEDERAL SECURITY SERVICE DISRUPTED WHAT IT CLAIMS WAS A UKRAINIAN ATTEMPT TO HIJACK A RUSSIAN TU-22M3 SUPERSONIC STRATEGIC BOMBER. ACCORDING TO THE FSB, UKRAINIAN INTELLIGENCE TRIED TO ENTICE A RUSSIAN PILOT WITH $3 MILLION AND AN OFFER OF ITALIAN CITIZENSHIP TO DEFECT AND FLY THE MISSILE-CAPABLE JET INTO UKRAINE.

THE TU-22M3, REFERRED TO BY NATO AS “BACKFIRE,” IS A LONG-RANGE BOMBER CRITICAL TO THE ONGOING CONFLICT BETWEEN RUSSIA AND UKRAINE. IT’S FREQUENTLY USED TO LAUNCH KH-22 CRUISE MISSILES THAT CAN CARRY NUCLEAR WARHEADS.

THE FSB RELEASED EVIDENCE, INCLUDING INTERCEPTED COMMUNICATIONS, SUGGESTING THAT NATO COUNTRIES WERE INVOLVED IN PLANNING THIS OPERATION.

THE PILOT, WHO REMAINS ANONYMOUS, SAYS HE WAS APPROACHED THROUGH THE TELEGRAM MESSAGING APP. HE REPORTED THAT A PERSON CLAIMING TO BE FROM UKRAINIAN INTELLIGENCE THREATENED HIS FAMILY AND DIRECTED HIM TO REROUTE THE AIRCRAFT. HE WAS PRESSED FOR SENSITIVE DETAILS ABOUT RUSSIAN MILITARY PLANES, INCLUDING THEIR TAIL NUMBERS, TECHNICAL CONDITIONS, AND MAINTENANCE SCHEDULES.

FEELING PRESSURED TO BETRAY HIS COUNTRY, THE PILOT REPORTED THE APPROACH TO HIS COMMANDERS. THIS INTELLIGENCE ENABLED RUSSIAN FORCES TO CARRY OUT A TARGETED STRIKE ON THE OZERNE AIRFIELD IN NORTHWESTERN UKRAINE.

LAST YEAR, UKRAINIAN OFFICIALS CONVINCED RUSSIAN PILOT MAXIM KUZMINOV TO DEFECT, FLYING HIS HELICOPTER INTO UKRAINE. KUZMINOV WAS FOUND DEAD IN SPAIN THIS FEBRUARY.

FOR STRAIGHT ARROW NEWS, I’M LAUREN TAYLOR.

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