Ukraine’s ace fighter pilot Andrii Pilshchykov who went by the call-sign ‘Juice’ was killed along with two other pilots in a mid-air-collission on Friday (August 25). Ukraine has confirmed the deaths. Plishchykov won fame when he took part in dogfights in the skies of Ukrainian capital Kyiv during the initial phase of the Russian invasion.
The crash and death of ‘Juice’ is being considered a major blow to Ukraine which is looking to acquire advanced F-16 jets and needs skilled pilots to strengthen its air force which mainly has Soviet-era fighter jets.
“We express our condolences to the families of the victims. This is a painful and irreparable loss for all of us,” Ukraine’s air force said, calling the crash “terrible”.
The crash took place in Zhytomyr region in northern Ukraine. The air force said that the crash involved two L-39 combat training aircraft. It added that an investigation was underway to find out the cause of the collision.
Air Force spokesperson Yuriy Ignat said that ‘Juice’ was a young officer with “mega knowledge and mega talent”.
“Major Andrii Pilshchykov devoted his short but very bright life to combat aviation, he dreamed of F-16s in the Ukrainian sky,” he said in a tribute shared on social media.
“You were more than a friend. Rest in peace, you have done so much for us,” he added.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky too expressed his sadness over the mid-air collision and the death of pilots.
“Yesterday a catastrophe occurred in the sky over the Zhytomyr region. Three pilots lost their lives. Among them was Andriy Pilshchykov, call sign – Juice. A Ukrainian officer, one of those who greatly helped our state. Very much so! My condolences to the family and loved ones, to everyone who knew the young men. An investigation into what happened is ongoing. It is too early to discuss details. Certainly, all circumstances will be clarified. Of course, Ukraine will never forget anyone who defended the free skies of Ukraine,” said Zelensky in his evening address.
Russia says downed Ukraine drones
Meanwhile, Russia has said that a series of drone attacks took place on its territory on Saturday. The attacks killed at least one person in a region closer to the border with Ukraine and also forced the closure of three major airports serving Russian capital Moscow.
Sergei Sobyanin, the mayor of Moscow said that Russian air defence systems brought down a drone over the Istra district of Moscow region.
TASS news agency reported that Moscow’s Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo and Vnukovo airports suspended flights for a couple of hours.