The Ukrainian security service SBU has accused a Russian general of ordering the destruction of the world’s largest cargo plane, the one-of-a-kind An-225, affectionately known as Mriya (Dream).

“The Security Service collected evidence about the deputy commander of the Airborne Forces of the Russian Federation, Lieutenant General Anatoly Kontsevoi, who is engaged in an aggressive war against Ukraine,” the SBU stated on its Telegram channel on Friday. “It was under his orders that the occupiers temporarily seized Hostomel airport at the start of a full-scale invasion.”

If caught and convicted, Kontsevoi faces up to 15 years in prison. The Mriya was beloved in Ukraine and around the world, not just for its immense size but for its six engines, iconic split tail, and the many aviation records it has achieved over the years.

The Mriya’s six three-shaft Ivchenko Progress/Lotarev D-18T turbofan engines each produced a maximum thrust of nearly 52,000 pounds of force, enabling the large aircraft to carry very heavy loads.

Its double tail allowed it to carry large, heavy external payloads—such as the space shuttle Buran—that would normally disturb airflow around a conventional central vertical tail.

It was the largest aircraft in the world and the heaviest. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the AN-225 ceased to be useful and was stored. 

However, in the early 2000s, Ukraine dusted it off and decided to use the AN-225 as a chartered cargo aircraft for other countries and broke world records for weight carried, including 280 tons (559,577 lb) of cargo. That record still stands today. Its maximum takeoff weight is just over 705 tons.

Ukraine identifies the Russian general behind the destruction of the Iconic An-225 Mriya aircraft.

It made its first flight on December 21, 1988, from the Antonov factory airfield near Kyiv. Unlike large cargo jets such as the An-124 Ruslan, Antonov only built one An-225 and another fuselage. But its rich history came to an end when the Russians attacked Hostomel.

The airport, just 24 kilometers from Kyiv, was seen as a major target for Russia because its capture would have helped them establish a rallying point for an attack on the capital.

The SBU noted that Kontsevoi “used special forces units of the airborne troops and army aviation” to storm Hostomel.

Ukrainian forces managed to push back the Russians. In a recent interview, Ukrainian Major General Kyrylo Budanov, head of the Defense Intelligence Directorate (GUR), claimed that winning the Battle of Hostomel was critical to Ukraine’s survival. But that victory did not come in time to save Mriya. “During active hostilities, Russian invaders destroyed,” Mriya, SBU, said.

Ukraine identifies the Russian general behind the destruction of the Iconic An-225 Mriya aircraft.
A view of the wreckage of the Antonov An-225 Mriya cargo plane, the world’s largest aircraft, destroyed by Russian forces.

“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 execution of the armed aggression against Ukraine,” the SBU said, adding that Kontsevoi had been organizing the training. of paratroopers in Russia and Belarus since 2019 “to destroy and capture strategic ground targets on the territory of our country.”

Ukraine identifies the Russian general behind the destruction of the Iconic An-225 Mriya aircraft.

On the basis of “the collected evidence, the Security Service investigators informed Kontsevoi about the suspicion under two articles of the Criminal Code of Ukraine:

“Comprehensive measures are underway to bring the perpetrator to justice for crimes against Ukraine,” the SBU said, without offering specific details on how it would apprehend the Russian general.

In March, the 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 first days of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.”, the Kyiv Post reported then.

“Serhiy Bychkov is accused of prohibiting the Ukrainian military from building defensive fortifications at the Hostomel airport by blocking the National Guard’s access to the territory of the facility,” the newspaper reported.

The head of the SBU, Vasyl Malyuk, stated that an “objective investigation” is being carried out into the case and that “those who helped the enemy to destroy one of the symbols of Ukraine must be punished.”

And he added: «The SBU will do everything necessary. Our state will definitely build a new plane because Mriya, like Ukraine, cannot be destroyed.”

In the last year, there have been sneaky efforts to try to raise funds to build a new Mriya. Almost exactly one year ago, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced his intentions to build a new Mriya during an online meeting with Ukrainian students.

“We wanted to build it; we needed 800 million dollars,” he said then, 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, the 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 aircraft back to life.

Dmitry Antonov, an AN-225 pilot for 30 years, spoke during a Microsoft live broadcast to announce that the aircraft would be joining the simulator’s aircraft library. All profits from the sales of the Antonov AN-225 DLC will go to a Ukrainian project to rebuild the destroyed AN-225.

But considering the construction price of a new Mriya – said to be approaching around $800 million, if not more – as well as Ukraine’s needs and capacity, it remains anyone’s guess whether a new An-225 will rise from its ashes before the man accused of ordering its destruction is apprehended.

In any case, we will keep you informed of any news about this amazing aircraft.

Howard Altman