Ukrainian forces recovered the shattered remains of the Antonov An-225 Mriya, the world’s largest aircraft, as Russian troops retreated from the Kyiv (kyiv) region.
A national icon, the mammoth aircraft was built during the Soviet era in 1985, when it was codenamed “Cossack” by NATO, to carry Buran-class space shuttles on its back, but was reused after the fall of the communist regime to carry cargo that no other aircraft could carry.
This included train cars, power plant generators, wind turbine blades, several tanksand, during the hasty withdrawal of US President Joe Biden from Afghanistan, military helicopters – as well as massive amounts of natural disaster and other emergency relief, including coronavirus-related medical and personal protective equipment in recent years .
That all ended shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine that year, however, with the An-225 – sometimes mistaken for a crudely photoshopped image when first viewed due to its almost comical size and its large number of wheels – being destroyed during the battle for Antonov Airport by Hostomel (Gostomel).
With the Russians having now withdrawn from the Kyiv region – either because they achieved their objectives in the region or because their position became untenable in the face of heavy casualties, depending on whether one listens to the Russian narrative or Ukrainian-Western – the airport has now been taken over by Ukrainian forces, and the cargo plane destroyed with it.
A fierce battle scene in which Russian elite VDV paratroopers reportedly suffered heavy casualties, Ukrainian forces did not let the disheartening sight of An-225 remnants dampen their mood too much, celebratory troops swarmed filming burning a captured Russian flag in front of her.
Incredibly, there is a chance that the one-of-a-kind aircraft could return to the skies once the conflict subsides, with the Ukrainian government having sworn to “rebuild the plane” as a point of principle.
Despite the 1980s vintage of the An-255, there is a realistic chance that this could be feasible, as a second airframe – its construction interrupted by the collapse of the Soviet economy first, then the Union Soviet itself – remains in Ukrainian custody in kyiv, with its completion has long been a pipe dream for many.
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