The world’s largest aircraft — the Ukrainian cargo plane Antonov-225 — was destroyed by Russian strikes outside Kiev on the fourth day of Moscow’s invasion, Ukraine’s state-owned Ukroboronprom announced Sunday.
“Russian invaders destroyed the flagship of the Ukrainian air force, the AN-225” at Antonov airport in Gostomel near Kiev, the group said in a statement.
The plane was unique in the world, at 84 meters long (276 feet), it could carry up to 250 metric tons (551,000 pounds) of cargo at speeds of up to 850 kilometers per hour (528 mph).
It had been named “Mriya,” which means “dream” in Ukrainian.
“It was the world’s biggest plane, the AN-225 ‘Mriya,’ ” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted Sunday.
“Russia may have destroyed our ‘Mriya’. But it can never destroy our dream of a strong, free and democratic European state. We will win!” he added.
Gostomel airport has seen violent clashes since the start of the Russian invasion, launched on Thursday by President Vladimir Putin.
The Russian army said it was trying to seize the strategic infrastructure.
Arms manufacturer Ukroboronprom estimated that restoring the “Mriya” would cost more than $3 billion (€2.7 billion) and could take more than five years.
“Our mission is to ensure that these expenses are covered by Russia, which has deliberately inflicted damage on the Ukrainian air force,” the group said.
Originally built as part of the Soviet aviation program, the An-225 made its first flight in 1988.
After years without flying after the fall of the Soviet Union, the only existing example made a test flight in 2001 at Gostomel, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Kiev.
It was operated by the Ukrainian company Antonov Airlines for cargo flights and was in high demand at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.