Ukraine assigns blame for destruction of world’s largest aircraft
The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has accused three employees at a key airport near Kiev of blocking an attempt to fortify the facility against a potential attack. The failure resulted in the destruction of the world’s largest aircraft, the Soviet-made An-225 Mriya transport plane, the agency claimed on Friday.
The aerial leviathan, which was capable of airlifting some 250 tons of cargo, was based at the airport near the city of Gostomel in Kiev Region, some 10km from the northwestern outskirts of the Ukrainian capital. It is operated by a subsidiary of state-owned aircraft manufacturer Antonov.
According to the SBU’s allegations, in January and February 2022, Sergey Bychckov, the CEO of Antonov at the time, and several of his subordinates conspired to stop the Ukrainian National Guard from preparing the site for defense against a possible Russian attack. The Gostomel Airport was one of the key targets of the Russian troops that advanced into Ukraine in the initial days of the military operation in late February of last year.
The facility was captured in a lightning offensive by Russian airborne troops, while it was a Ukrainian attempt to take it back that resulted in the destruction of the An-225 in its hangar. The plane reportedly came under Ukrainian artillery fire during the battle. Russian troops pulled away from Kiev in March 2022 in what the Defense Ministry described as a gesture of goodwill after progress was made in peace talks.
SBU head Valery Malyuk alleged that the suspects “de facto helped the enemy destroy one of the symbols of Ukraine” and pledged that his agency would go to any lengths to hold them accountable. The security service reported on Friday having arrested two suspects, adding that the third, the head of airport security, remained on the run. They face up to 15 years in prison.
Built in the 1980s, the An-225 is considered one of the most impressive achievements of the Soviet aerospace industry. It was designed to transport the Buran space shuttle from outside of Moscow to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. However, the demise of the Soviet reusable spacecraft limited its role.
Ukrainian officials claim their country will produce a new aircraft of the same design. “Like Ukraine, the Mriya cannot be destroyed,” Malyuk stated.