The first pictures show the tragic Air Force cadets who were killed in a plane crash in Ukraine when their military plane exploded into a fireball.
The 26 “beloved and respected” Ukrainian cadets and their instructors, who were killed in the fireball when their plane crashed on a training flight in Kharkiv, received emotional recognition.
The cause of the terrible accident with an Antonov An-26 military aircraft is believed to be a defective engine.
Massive flames enveloped the crash scene near a highway in the Kharkiv region.
Only one survivor was reported aboard the flight this morning by the elite students at Kharkiv National Air Force University.
Pictures have now surfaced of some of those lost in the air as grieving classmates recounted the cadets dying and doing what they loved most – flying.
Sergei Voronenko, 21, wrote: “This event is simply the impossible and the most terrible thing that could have happened.
“Everyone [of them] loved what killed him. How unfair it is. “
The plane was about a mile from Chuhuiv military airfield when it crashed, about 60 miles from the front line where government forces are fighting pro-Russian rebels.
The pilot had communicated by radio that he had problems with an engine.
There were 20 students on board, believed to be in their early twenties, and seven officers.
A day of mourning has been declared over a crash that wiped out most of Ukraine’s young military aviators.
In his tribute, Voronenko wrote: “We have been through a lot, but only your smile will be remembered.
“You were loved and respected, you were a role model. Too many worthy people died that terrible evening, too many.
“I just want to fall asleep on that sleepless night, then wake up believing that this is just a bad dream that will never happen again.
“Commander of the 151st Group Roman Korchovskyi, cadet of the 151st Group Vladimir Olabin, cadet of the 153rd Group Evgenyi Skorobogatko, and all other cadets and officers in that terrible plane crash will be a bright and eternal memory.”
Voronenko also told about his grief for his classmate Andrei Rospotnyuk.
He said, “I just don’t believe it because a month ago I was delighted to hear you on the phone and congratulate you on your birthday.
“And now I find out that you and our boys are gone.
“What a merciless fate to take away such wonderful people.
“Those who knew Andrei will agree that this man had an incredibly kind heart.
“A man who was true to his friends, his principles, his girlfriend. What a shame that your great wishes have not come true. “
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described the crash as a “terrible tragedy”.
Kharkiv region governor Alexei Kucher claimed the pilot reported engine failure prior to the crash.
Speaking to a Ukraine-24 television station, he said: “The tragedy may have been caused by a faulty aircraft engine.
“There was a warning from the pilot that the left engine had failed.
“On the other hand, sometimes a motor is deliberately switched off during the experiments in order to practice.
“Therefore this situation is not critical for an experienced pilot. We’ll find out what happened next. “
Flight recorders were found.
A defense spokesman said, “You survived and have not yet been removed from the plane.”
Roman Korchovskyi, Maxim Khomyachyuk, Andrei Pomerantsev, Artyom Dudla, Bogdan Matvyichyuk, Vitalyi Vilkhovoi, Ashraf Msuya, Alexei Ostapenko, Andrei Rospotnyuk, Evgenyi Skorobogatko and Vladimir Olabin were named among the dead.