Ukraine’s SBU security service has accused a Russian general of ordering the destruction of the world’s largest cargo jet, the one-of-a-kind An-225 known affectionately as Mriya.
“The Security Service gathered evidence on the deputy commander of the Airborne Forces of the Russian Federation, Lieutenant General Anatoly Kontsevoi, who is participating in an aggressive war against Ukraine,” SBU stated Friday on its Telegram channel. “It was on his orders that the occupiers temporarily seized the Hostomel airport at the beginning of a full-scale invasion.”
If he is caught and convicted, Kontsevoi faces up to 15 years in prison.
Mriya was beloved in Ukraine and around the world not just for its immense size, but because of its six engines, iconic split tail and the many aviation records it garnered over the years.
Mriya’s six Ivchenko Progress/Lotarev D-18T, three-shaft turbofan engines each produced a maximum thrust of nearly 52,000 pounds-force, enabling the large aircraft to carry very heavy loads.
Not only was it the world’s largest aircraft, it was capable of carrying the most weight. After the Soviet Union fell, the AN-225 no longer had a purpose and was put in storage. However, in the early 2000s, Ukraine dusted it off and decided to use the AN-225 as a chartered cargo plane for other countries and it broke world records for weight transported, including carrying 280 tons (559,577 pounds) worth of cargo. That record still stands today. Its maximum take-off weight is just over 705 tons (1,410,958 pounds).
It made its first flight on December 21, 1988, from the Antonov factory aerodrome near Kyiv. Unlike other large cargo jets like the An-124 Ruslan, Antonov only made one An-225 and the fuselage of another. You can read more about the plane, and its first pilot, in our deep dive here.
But its rich history came to an end when Russians attacked Hostomel.
The airport, just 15 miles from Kyiv, was considered an important objective for Russia because its capture would have helped them establish a marshaling point for an attack on the capital.
Kontsevoi “used special forces units of the airborne troops and army aviation” to storm Hostomel, SBU noted.
Ukrainian forces managed to fight off the Russians. In a recent interview, Ukrainian Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, head of the Defense Intelligence Directorate (GUR), said winning the battle for Hostomel was critical to Ukraine’s survival.
But that victory was not in time to save Mriya.
“During active hostilities, the Russian invaders destroyed” Mriya, SBU said.
“It has been established that the Russian general is part of the highest military command of the Russian Federation and took a direct part in the planning, preparation and implementation of armed aggression against Ukraine,” SBU said, adding that Kontsevoi had been organizing training of paratroopers in Russia and Belarus since 2019 “to destroy and capture strategic ground targets on the territory of our country.”
Based on “the collected evidence, the investigators of the Security Service informed Kontsevoi about the suspicion under two articles of the Criminal Code of Ukraine:
- Part 3 Art. 110 (encroachment on the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine);
- Part 2 Art. 28 and Part 2 of Art. 437 (planning, preparation, unleashing and waging of an aggressive war committed by prior conspiracy of persons).
“Comprehensive measures are underway to bring the perpetrator to justice for crimes against Ukraine,” SBU said, without offering any specifics about how it would arrest a Russian general.
In March, SBU arrested Antonov’s former CEO “for allegedly making decisions that allowed Russian forces to destroy the world’s largest aircraft, the An-225 Mriya, during the opening days of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine,” the Kyiv Post reported at the time.
“Serhiy Bychkov is accused of forbidding the Ukrainian military to build defensive fortifications at the Hostomel airport by blocking the National Guard’s access to the facility’s territory,” the newspaper reported.
SBU chief Vasyl Malyuk said an “objective investigation” is being conducted into the case and “those who helped the enemy destroy one of Ukraine’s symbols must be punished.”
He added: “The SBU will do everything required. Our state will definitely build a new aircraft because Mriya, like Ukraine, cannot be destroyed.”
There have been furtive efforts in the past year to try to raise funds to build a new Mriya.
“We wanted to build it, we needed $800 million,” he said at the time, according to the Interfax Ukraine news agency. “I appealed to the President of Turkey with a proposal to build the 2nd MRIYA, but we did not find the money,” he said.
Earlier this year, Mriya was digitally reborn as a $20 DLC (downloadable content) for Microsoft’s Flight Simulator. Antonov worked with Microsoft and iniBuilds to bring the legendary plane back to life and Dmitry Antonov, pilot of the AN-225 for 30 years, spoke during a Microsoft livestream to announce that the plane would be joining the simulator’s aircraft library. All of the proceeds of Antonov AN-225 DLC sales will go to a Ukrainian project to rebuild the destroyed AN-225. You can read more about that effort in our story here.
But given the price tag of building a new Mriya – said to approach some $800 million if not more – as well as Ukraine’s needs and capacity, it remains an open question whether a new An-225 will arise from the ashes before the man accused of ordering its destruction is arrested.
Either way, we will keep you posted on any further updates on this amazing plane.
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