Article written by Clément Charpentreau and Valius Venckūnas.
Since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Russian troops have targeted airports. After the bombing of Kyiv-Boryspil International Airport (KBP), the battle is now raging for Hostomel-Antonov Airport (GML), raising questions over the fate of the world’s largest aircraft, the An-225 Mriya.
Footage of the fight shows several Mi-8 military transport helicopters rushing towards the facility. On the ground, soldiers of the Ukrainian National Guard are fighting Russian paratroopers. The latter are trying to secure the airport in order to establish a bridgehead for more Russian troops to be flown into the country, according to CNN reporter Matthew Chance.
Breaking: @mchancecnn with Russian forces at the Antonov airport about 15 miles outside of Kyiv. “These troops you can see over here, they are Russian airborne forces. They have taken this airport” pic.twitter.com/SnvmwQ1GeA— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) February 24, 2022
As its name implies, Antonov Airport is owned by the aircraft manufacturing company of the same name. It also houses subsidiary Antonov Airlines. This cargo carrier is world-renowned for employing a unique aircraft: the Antonov An-225 Mriya.
With a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 600 metric tons and a hold volume of 1,300 cubic meters, Mriya is the world’s largest and heaviest operating aircraft. As such, it holds a special place in the heart of many aviation enthusiasts.
The fate of the flying giant is currently unknown, though some unconfirmed reports say it might have been either damaged or destroyed during the Russian assault. The An-225 had returned from Denmark to its home base on February 5, 2022. Several videos of the assault show two plumes of smoke. They seem to emanate from the fuel depots of Hostomel airport, one of them in the northern part of the facility, and one in the southern. The northern depot is located approximately 150 meters (500 feet) from one of Antonov hangars, where the An-225 is located.
In the video below, the roof of another one of Antonov’s hangars can be seen between the plumes, indicating that at the time the video was taken the fire had not spread to the hangars.
[Переслано від Оперативний ЗСУ] [ Відео ] Гостомель – десант ОРДИ половина недолетіло— Alterego ankaŭ konata kiel Midshipman (@CASBT_OSINT_UA) February 24, 2022
Половина в полоні
МВС України повідомило про захоплення російського диверсанта під Гостомелем.
In some unconfirmed photos, the walls of the hangar can be seen. There appear to be large holes in them, indicating possible damage. However, it must be noted that the depicted hangar is not the one where the An-225 is normally stored.
ангар Аэропорта “Гостомель” pic.twitter.com/0YsdQs8r9P— ucho od śledzia & moskaliki (@OdSledzia) February 24, 2022
UPDATE 02-24-2022, 21:40 (UTC +3): Dmitry Antonov, the captain of the An-225, said that the aircraft is intact.
“The Russian forces are near Kyiv. The arrival of large planes is possible. Positively, Mriya is intact. Hold fast and glory to Ukraine,” Antonov said in a Facebook post.
It is likely that by the arrival of “large planes,” Antonov meant Russian military transports that could land in Hostomel to support the Russian paratroopers fighting there.