Ukrainian officials claimed that Russian forces had destroyed the world's largest aircraft, the famous Antonov AN-255. News of the destruction of the famous Ukrainian airplane has generated concern and sadness within the aviation industry, given the aircraft's significance and cult status.
The aircraft, called "Mriya," or "dream" in Ukrainian, was stored inside a hangar at the Hostomel Airbase near Kyiv. Officials claimed that Russian forces attacked the airfield and destroyed part of the hangar. Satellite images showed the hangar partially destroyed.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba confirmed on social media that Russia had destroyed the Mriya. He added that even if the plane was gone, Russia would never be able to destroy Ukraine's dream and freedom.
The extent of the damage to the giant aircraft still remains unclear. No other agency has confirmed the aircraft's destruction. The Antonov Company, which built the record-holding aircraft, said it could not verify the condition of the Mriya as it has not yet been able to send its staff to the area.
Ukroboronprom, the Ukrainian state military company that operates the Antonov AN-255, said Sunday that the plane had been severely damaged. The company said the plane would be rebuilt at Russia's expense at the cost of $3 billion.
The repair process is expected to take more than five years. The company said it would ensure that Russia, which has intentionally harmed Ukraine's aviation and air freight sectors, will pay for the rebuilding of the aircraft.
The aircraft was reportedly at the hangar for repairs. Antonov said one of its engines was being dismantled, which is why it wasn't able to take off when Russian forces began their campaign to take control of Kyiv.
On Friday, Russian officials said they had already taken control of the Hostomel airfield. Witnesses said Russian airborne troops had descended on the airfield and taken defensive positions.
If the Antonov AN-255 was indeed destroyed, it would mark a sad end to the iconic aircraft, which has been in service for more than 30 years - before the collapse of the Soviet Union. The aircraft was often used to send aid to other countries that were in crisis. It flew in aid missions after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. It also recently delivered vaccines and medical supplies to neighboring countries during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The AN-255 was the heaviest and largest aircraft ever built. It was powered by six engines and was capable of carrying loads of up to 250 tons. Apart from holding the record as the largest airplane in operation, it also boasts the largest wingspan of any aircraft today.
The Antonov Company only built one AN-255, which was put into service in 1988. The company planned to build a second plane, but it was never completed.