- Three Ukrainian pilots were killed on Friday after a mid-air collision during a training flight.
- Among the dead was a commander going by the callsign Juice, who had urged the United States to provide F-16 jets.
- The disaster comes as Western allies have begun offering pilot training to Ukrainian troops.
Three Ukrainian pilots died on Friday after a mid-air collision during a training flight.
Eyewitnesses told Radio Free Europe they saw the two L-39 planes collide during their flight after flying ‘increasingly close to each other’ during the training exercise . The crash sent debris crashing near the village of Sinhury.
“Yesterday a disaster occurred in the skies of the Zhytomyr region,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a statement released on Saturday, confirming the death of the pilots. “Among them was Andriy Pilshchykov, call sign Juice. He was a Ukrainian officer, one of those who helped our country a lot. A lot! My condolences to family and friends, to everyone who knew these guys.”
Zelensky added: “The investigation into what happened is ongoing. It is too early to talk about the details. Of course, all the circumstances will be clarified. Of course, Ukraine will never forget anyone who defended the free skies of Ukraine. May they always remember them!”
In an interview last year with CNNin which he lamented Russia’s air superiority, Juice revealed that his friends gave him that nickname during a trip to the United States because he continually asked for juice during their parties since he didn’t drink juice. alcohol.
When Anderson Cooper asked what it meant to Juice to join the war effort, he replied, “It’s just my job. I was trained for this. I was ready for this war.”
The MiG-29 pilot returned to CNN in June to say the summer counteroffensive would be “much more effective” and “safer for our men on the ground” if the West supplied Ukraine with F-16s, because American-made fighter jets will be better able to compete with Russia’s superior air power.
Representatives of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
The disaster comes just days after the United States announced plans to provide jet pilot training to Ukrainians flying F-16s that Denmark and the Netherlands have provided from their fleets. The Biden administration’s agreement to offer pilot training on American soil, a reversal of comments made earlier this year, follows months of mounting international pressure and calls from Ukrainian officials that the F-16s would be an essential factor in the defense against the Russian Air Force.
The training, which will take place at Morris Air National Guard Base in Tucson, Arizona, will begin in October.