Ukraine’s pride, the world’s largest plane, destroyed by Russian strikes

Published: Tuesday, March 1, 2022

KIEV—Ukraine’s pride, Antonov AN-225 Mriya, the world’s largest plane and the only one of its kind, was destroyed by Russian strikes while it was parked for repair at the hangar of Antonov Airport in Gostomel near the capital Kiev, officials said.

The plane was damaged on 24 February 2022, the first day of the Russian invasion on Ukraine. Ukrainians initially blocked the invading Russian troops but the Russian Airborne Forces later managed to take over the airport which is strategically used for international cargo, MRO and testing flights.

On Russian President Vladimir Putin’s orders, Russian soldiers began the invasion and strategically targeted attacking Ukraine’s vital military and civilian infrastructure like the Gostomel airport to quickly weaken Ukraine’s defense. But Ukrainians, mostly civilians, took a united stand to defend their freedom and democracy despite their limited military training and supplies.

The battle continues despite global efforts to impose heavy economic sanctions against Russia and the EU’s decision to help Ukraine with military artillery, equipment, missiles, among other things. Millions of innocent civilians in the country had since been displaced while hundreds of thousands flee to nearby European countries.

Ukraine’s state-owned defense conglomerate, UkrOboronProm, said in a statement, “Russian invaders destroyed the flagship of the Ukrainian aviation.”

“On the morning of February 24, the biggest cargo airplane was undergoing repair and routine maintenance at the ANTONOV Company site in Gostomel. According to the director of Antonov Airlines, one of the engines was dismantled for repairs and the plane wasn’t able to take off that day, although the appropriate commands were given.

“Currently, it is impossible to assess the plane’s condition and the possibility and cost of its restoring due the lack of access to the aircraft as the control over the airport is taken by the Russian occupiers,” UkrOboronProm said in a statement.

Estimates showed it would take five years to rebuild AN-225 and could cost over $3 billion. “Our mission is to ensure that these expenses are covered by Russia, which deliberately inflicted damage on Ukraine’s aviation,” UkrOboronProm said.

Named Mriya, which means “dream” in Ukrainian, AN-225 is 84 meters long and capable of transporting up to 640 tons. It was initially built as part of the Soviet Union’s aeronautical program and made its first flight in 1988.

The plane, dubbed as the workhorse of the air cargo industry, because it’s the only one capable of carrying cargo of extraordinary load, size and shape, has been an invaluable partner of many industries through the years, particularly in carrying humanitarian cargo in different disaster-stricken areas and conflict zones.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Antonov AN-225 was heavily used to transport medical supplies and other general and special cargo.