Charismatic, decorated Ukrainian fighter pilot Andriy “Juice” Pilshchykov was one of three pilots killed in the midair collision of two L-39 military jets in northwest Ukraine, authorities said.
Details of Friday’s crash were not immediately released. A driving force behind Ukraine’s effort to obtain F-16 fighter jets, Pilshchykov was fluent in English and frequently interviewed with Western media. Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat described Pilshchykov as a “young officer with mega knowledge and mega talent.” Ihnat credited Pilshchykov, recipient of the prestigious Order of Courage, with leading multiple reforms in the Air Force.
“I have often supported his crazy ideas, which yielded incredible results,” Ihnat wrote in a Facebook post.
Also killed were Maj. Vyacheslav Minka and Maj. Sergey Prokazhin. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the crash a “catastrophe in the sky” over Ukraine’s Zhytomyr region.
“My heart goes out to the pilots’ friends and loved ones,” he said. “The investigation is ongoing, and the truth will be revealed. Ukraine will never forget all those who defended its free sky.”
◾The Russian military said its long-range missiles attacked an airfield near Kyiv and that “the purpose of the strike was achieved.”
∎The Ukrainian ship loaded with steel for Africa has reached Romanian waters after successfully navigating through a temporary Black Sea corridor designed to avoid Russian blockade, President Volodomyr Zelenskyy said.
DNA testing on human remains from the crash of a private plane northwest of Moscow that killed all 10 people last week has confirmed the death of Wagner Group mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, Russian investigators said Sunday.
“Genetic examinations have been completed,” Svetlana Petrenko, a spokeswoman for Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency, said in a Telegram post. “According to their results, the identity of all 10 dead was established, they correspond to the list stated in the flight sheet.”
The Embraer business jet’s manifest listed Prigozhin − a former restaurateur and longtime friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin − the three-person crew and six of Prigozhin’s top lieutenants. The deaths struck a crushing blow to the mercenary group that had proved to be among Russia’s most effective military units in Ukraine as well as in Syria, Sudan and several other countries. Prigozhin had gained folk-hero status among the Russian public, but his unrelenting criticism of the Russian military establishment and its leaders, prompting an ill-fated, 36-hour rebellion, pushed him out of favor with Putin.
A preliminary U.S. intelligence assessment found Wednesday’s plane crash was caused by an intentional explosion, according to U.S. and Western officials, who were not authorized to comment and spoke on the condition of anonymity. The Kremlin has rejected suggestions of involvement in the crash, and the investigation into the cause was continuing.
Ivan Fomin, an associate professor at the University of Moscow until he left Russia days after the Ukraine invasion, says Prigozhin’s death can’t cure Putin’s political ills.
“The problem Putin faces is not limited to a single rebellious former restaurateur and thus cannot be solved by assassination alone,” Fomin wrote in an opinion piece for The Moscow Times. “He instead has to find a way to deal with a fairly broad group of people who are in favor of tougher policies and a more aggressive military campaign in Ukraine.”
The day after the crash, Putin expressed condolences to the families of the victims, crediting Prigozhin for a “significant contribution” to Russia’s war effort.
“He was a man of difficult fate, and he made serious mistakes in life,” Putin said, adding that “he achieved the results he needed.”
New military aid packages already in the pipeline are setting the stage for a “productive September,” Zelenskyy said Sunday. International support continues to grow, he said, and artillery, armored vehicles, missiles and mine clearance equipment are rolling in, he said. Global food security remains a constant priority, he said, as Ukraine works to get its grain to countries desperately in need despite Russia’s blockade.
“A world united is more powerful than an aggressor,” Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter. “In September, there will be even more unity.”
A military correspondent for Russia’s Crimean-based NewsFront media outlet was wounded in an assassination attempt by Ukrainian troops in the Kherson Region, the region’s acting Russian governor, Vladimir Saldo, claimed Sunday. Saldo, a Ukrainian who sided with Russia when the war began, said Ukrainian militants used an armed drone to strike the car of the correspondent known as “Lex.” The car was seriously damaged; Saldo gave no details on the extent of the correspondent’s injuries. Ukrainian authorities issued no immediate comment on the Russian claim.
Russia has concentrated over 100,000 troops in the Kupiansk-Lyman direction of the front in Kharkiv and Luhansk, Eastern Force Grouping press officer Illia Yevlash said Thursday. The troops are providing Russian forces with their own offensive even as Ukraine’s push slowly takes back territory seized by Russia in the early months of the 18-month war. Both cities had been occupied by Russian forces before being liberated last year.
“As Ukraine continues to gradually gain ground in the south, Russia’s doctrine suggests that it will attempt to regain the initiative by pivoting back to an operational level offensive,” the British Defense Ministry said in a recent assessment. “Kupiansk-Lyman is one potential area for this.”
Read More:Russia confirms death of Prigozhin