World’s only Antonov-225, largest flying plane, hit by Russian strikes in Ukraine, Latest World News - The New Paper

World’s only Antonov-225, largest flying plane, hit by Russian strikes in Ukraine

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KYIV (AFP) – The largest plane in the world – Ukraine’s one-of-a-kind Antonov-225 freighter – has been destroyed by Russian strikes outside Kyiv.

It happened on the fourth day of Moscow’s invasion, Ukraine’s state-owned Ukroboronprom group said.

“Russian invaders destroyed the flagship of Ukrainian aviation, the AN-225” at the Antonov airport in Gostomel near Kyiv, the group said in a statement.

The 84m-long aircraft was unique. It could transport up to 250 tonnes of cargo at 850kmh.

The Soviet-era craft had been named “Mriya”, which means “dream” in Ukrainian.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted on Sunday (Feb 27):  “Russia may have destroyed our ‘Mriya’. But they will never be able to destroy our dream of a strong, free and democratic European state. We shall prevail!”

Weapons manufacturer Ukroboronprom estimated that restoring the Mriya would cost over US$3 billion (S$4 billion) and could take five years.

“Our mission is to ensure that these expenses are covered by Russia, which deliberately inflicted damage on Ukraine’s aviation,” the group said.

The An-225 made its first flight in 1988.

Only one exists and it did not fly for years after the fall of the Soviet Union. Then a test flight was carried out in 2001.

It has since been operated by Ukraine’s Antonov Airlines and was in high demand during the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.