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Russian strikes in Ukraine destroy world’s largest plane

The Antonov-225 cargo plane, nicknamed ‘Dream,’ could transport up to 250 tons of cargo; was widely used during COVID pandemic

An Antonov-225 Mriya cargo plane carrying medical cargo from China prepares to land at an airfield in Gostomel outside Kyiv, on April 23, 2020. (Genya Savilov/AFP)
An Antonov-225 Mriya cargo plane carrying medical cargo from China prepares to land at an airfield in Gostomel outside Kyiv, on April 23, 2020. (Genya Savilov/AFP)

KYIV, Ukraine — The largest plane in the world — Ukraine’s Antonov-225 cargo plane — was destroyed by Russian strikes outside Kyiv on the fourth day of Moscow’s invasion, Ukraine’s state-owned Ukroboronprom group said Sunday.

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

The aircraft was unique to the world, at 84 meters long (276 feet) it could transport up to 250 tons (551,000 pounds) of cargo at a speed of up to 850 kilometers per hour (528 mph).

It had been named “Mriya,” which means “Dream” in Ukrainian.

“This was the world’s largest aircraft, AN-225 ‘Mriya'” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted Sunday.

“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!” he added.

The Gostomel airport has seen violent clashes since the start of Russia’s invasion, launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday. The Russian army has said it is trying to seize strategic infrastructure.

Weapons manufacturer Ukroboronprom estimated that restoring the “Mriya” would cost more than $3 billion (2.7 billion euros) and could take over 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.

Initially built as part of the Soviet aeronautical program, the AN-225 made its first flight in 1988.

After years of not flying after the fall of the Soviet Union, the only existing copy made a test flight in 2001 in Gostomel, about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) from Kyiv.

It has been operated by Ukraine’s Antonov Airlines for cargo flights and was in high demand during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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