Captain Anton Listopad had been recognized a few days ago with the Order of Courage by Zelenski himself due to his courage against the Russian forces
Ukraine has mourned the death in combat of Captain Anton Listopad, recognized in 2019 as the best fighter pilot in the country and who had recently been decorated by President Zelensky for his bravery. Listopad’s death has been confirmed by the Lyceum of Physics and Technology, the training center where he graduated, although it does not explain the day or the circumstances in which it occurred. Some sources assume that his device would have fallen during an air raid against the Russian Army in Donbas, where Moscow has deployed a wide barrier of anti-aircraft defenses.
“Anton’s path to becoming a fighter pilot was difficult, but significant,” the Liceo statement said, adding: “The young man had stubbornly pursued his dream of becoming a pilot.”
Listopad participated in the counteroffensive from February 24, the first day of the Russian invasion, which dealt a heavy blow to the Ukrainian air force. Indeed, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported on March 29 that Ukraine’s fighter fleet and air defense systems “had been virtually destroyed” by losing 123 of its 152 warplanes and half of its helicopters. All this foreshadowed that the invasion could end in a matter of weeks; an erroneous assumption as has been shown.
Just as Ukraine lost much of its military infrastructure, it has managed to recover it thanks to international contributions. The request for aircraft and missiles from kyiv has been a constant during the more than five months that the war has lasted. Zelensky himself has recognized that the inferiority in air combat was key in the advance of the Russian troops, who now dominate a large part of Donbas, and in the savage sieges suffered by towns such as Bucha or Mariúpol. And he is not willing to leave that gap open.
The pilot receives the medal for courage from President Zelensky
A few days after the start of the conflagration, different media echoed the death of the so-called ‘ghost of kyiv’, a kind of hero from the skies who would have shot down 40 Russian planes in actions as reckless as they were intrepid. The information considered that the ‘ghost’ was Stepan Tarabalka, who died on March 13 when his plane was hit by Russian projectiles. The Ukrainian General Staff later denied the existence of this hero. He clarified that this was a legend made up of the actions of all the pilots of the Air Force’s 40th Tactical Aviation Brigade, responsible for protecting kyiv. They were said to “appear suddenly where they are not expected”, which had allowed the rumor of a mythological spectral pilot to be coined.
Lystopad, the last hero of the Ukrainian skies, had this month received the Order of Courage of the third degree. Last year, the General Staff entrusted him with the honor of leading the parade of a column of planes over the capital during the 30th anniversary ceremony of the country’s independence. “Millions of Ukrainians watched that flight with admiration and pride,” the Lyceum highlighted.
The Ukrainian Air Force has not exactly stood out for its public visibility since the beginning of hostilities with Russia, nor are its pilots as well known as the military defending the territory from the ground. But it is a wing that has played a very important role in the war for its ability to slow the Russian advance, even when its operational strength has been at a minimum. Its role has been essential, above all, in the defense of kyiv and its power has only increased since the West, and especially the United States, began to supply it with heavy weapons. Military media have reported in recent days that, although Russian bombers and helicopters maintain their pressure from the front, the number of incursions into Ukrainian-controlled territory has decreased.
The government now hopes to get modern Swedish-made Gripen fighters for a fleet hitherto dominated by US F-16s. “It’s not just the F-16s that are good. There are other modern standards,” Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov recently pointed out.