Ukraine mourns pilot killed in collision

KYIV (HRNW) – Hundreds of Ukrainians attended a church ceremony on Tuesday to pay their last respects to a celebrated fighter pilot with the callsign Juice who was killed in an air disaster during training.

The death of Andriy Pilshchykov, 30, a poster boy for Ukraine’s air force who lobbied Western governments for supplies of F-16 fighter jets, was a bitter blow for Ukraine’s military as it battles Russia.

“Unfortunately the number of deaths is already so high, but every death is painful,” said Natalia Menesheva, a dentist who attended the ceremony in Kyiv’s main Greek Catholic cathedral.

“These are irreparable losses, the best of the nation are dying. Young, talented, handsome. It’s very painful.”

Pilshchykov and two other pilots were killed on Friday when two L-39 combat training aircraft collided. The Air Force spokesperson described him as a “mega-talent”.

Six soldiers in uniform unloaded his coffin from a green van and brought it inside the cathedral as its large bell tolled. His girlfriend, ashen-faced, looked down and sobbed.

Standing beside her were his mother and a young man in an Air Force pilot’s jumpsuit who held up a photo of him, his head bowed.