Images show destruction of world's largest airplane in Ukraine

Vasco Cotovio, Frederik Pleitgen, Byron Blunt and Daria Markina, CNNUpdated 4th April 2022
Up next
CNN reporter witnesses Haitian gang violence from inside an armored car
Why these billionaires are funding a massive treasure hunt in Greenland
'I'm so proud to be his mum': Archie Battersbee's mother announces son's death
Video captures oil tank exploding into massive fireball
Journalist who interviewed bin Laden predicts the future of global terrorism
These are the women breaking new ground in Kenya's politics
China fires missiles towards Taiwan strait in drill after Pelosi visit
Pelosi: China made a 'big fuss' of my trip
Meet the hard-right Hungarian leader joining US conservatives at CPAC
'I had to have a little cry': Tourists watch stunning views of Iceland eruption
Hostomel, Ukraine (CNN) — Its fuselage is a charred and twisted gaping hole. Its gigantic wings are slumped to the ground, one of its engines burned and destroyed.
The huge train of tires on which the aircraft sits is still visible, as is the tattered nose cone, proudly bearing Ukrainian blue and yellow stripes and the "225" of its official designation.
But it's clear the world's largest commercial airplane, the Antonov AN-225, will never fly again.
The full extent of the damage to the aircraft, named "Mriya," or "dream" in Ukrainian, was seen by CNN journalists after Russian troops withdrew last week from Hostomel airfield outside Kyiv, which was among the first strategic targets of the invasion of Ukraine.
The jet plane lies crumpled and broken beneath the shattered arch of an aircraft hangar, where it had been awaiting maintenance at the time of the invasion.
Around it lies the detritus of war -- the airfield is littered with destroyed Russian hardware, including trucks, tanks, armored personnel carriers and spent munitions.
The AN-225's destruction was a symbolic loss in the early throes of conflict. The aircraft, originally built to support the 1980s Soviet space shuttle program, had been a symbol of pride for Ukraine.
It also sent shockwaves through the world of aviation. The aircraft had been celebrated as a marvel of modern aerial engineering, regularly attracting crowds both at air shows where it was the star attraction and during its day-to-day cargo missions around the world.

Symbolic status

The Antonov An-225 Mriya airplane in service in 2020.
The Antonov An-225 Mriya airplane in service in 2020.
Ronny Hartmann/AFP/Getty Images
Immediately following reports of its demise, Ukrainian authorities vowed to rebuild the plane, saying Russia would be made to foot the $3 billion cost of reconstruction.
"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!" wrote Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Twitter at the time.
Russian troops began digging in at Hostomel shortly after gaining control of the airfield in late February. Following weeks of intense fighting, satellite images revealed last Thursday that Russian forces had suddenly disappeared.
Previous satellite images showed that, around military vehicles and artillery positions, the Russians had constructed protective earthen berms. Now, just the berms remain.
Ukrainian forces have since taken control of the facility, claiming it as a significant victory over the Russians. At the weekend, CNN journalists toured the airfield with Ukrainian National Police.
It was not clear what caused the airplane's destruction -- whether it was an act of deliberate sabotage or collateral damage from the military offensive to take control of the airfield.
But despite the AN-255's dilapidated state, many soldiers were taking photographs of the aircraft, Mriya's symbolic status among Ukrainians clearly undiminished