IN PICTURES: Ukraine Bids Farewell to Hero Fighter Pilot Lost in Tragic Crash

People gathered at a church in Kyiv on Tuesday, August 29, to say their final goodbyes to a highly regarded fighter pilot who played a crucial role in convincing Western nations to provide Ukraine with advanced F-16 jets.

Andriy Pilshchykov, known by his call sign Juice, tragically lost his life last week along with two fellow pilots during a training flight over the northern Zhytomyr region.

The funeral ceremony was attended by dozens of mourners, including renowned Ukrainian war photographers Kostiantyn and Vlada Liberov, who documented the solemn event.

The scene was moving, with Pilshchykov's cap resting on his coffin, which was draped in the Ukrainian flag's yellow-and-blue colors. Friends, family, and fellow servicemen gathered at the church to bid farewell.

Lieutenant Colonel Oleksandr Dovgal, a reserve officer, shared that Pilshchykov was inspired to modernise the air force after attending training in the United States.


"He wanted to fight bureaucracy, so that we could have American-style pilot training –- no wasting time, just improving your skills," he told AFP.

Dovgal also mentioned that the call sign "Juice" was given to him by US soldiers due to his preference for non-alcoholic beverages.

Mykola Oleshchuk, the commander of Ukraine's air force, paid his respects by laying flowers near the coffin and offering condolences to Pilshchykov's mother. Mourners joined together in singing the Ukrainian anthem within the historic 20th-century Catholic cathedral situated along the banks of the Dnipro River.

Over the weekend, Ukrainian officials praised the pilot's contribution to the war effort. Air Force spokesperson Yuriy Ignat said Pilshchykov was a young officer with "mega knowledge and mega talent."


"[Pilshchykov] was courageous, principled, uncompromising, actively spoke in the Western media, in particular on the issue of providing Ukraine with modern F-16 aircraft," his brigade said.

The tragic crash has dealt a blow to Kyiv, especially considering that just this month, the city had secured commitments from its Western allies regarding the supply of advanced US-manufactured F-16s. These jets were intended to revamp Ukraine's air force and enhance its capabilities.