To Defenders of Freedom

Ukrainian pilot Andrii “Juice” Pilshchykov died in a training accident

As reported by the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, on August 25, 2023, two combat training L-39 jets collided while performing a training flight near Zhytomyr. Three Ukrainian pilots died in the accident, including Andrii Pilshchykov, callsign “Juice”, Major Viacheslav Minka, and Major Serhii Prokazin.

Andrii “Juice” Pilshchykov, a 30-year-old Ukrainian fighter pilot, was born in Kharkiv. He was a major in the 40th Tactical Aviation Brigade of the Ukrainian Air Force, operating a Mig-29.

As UNITED24 reported, in 2018, Andrii Pilshchykov took part in the international training exercise “Clear Sky 2018”, where he got his callsign. The pilot said his friends came up with the nickname, because he didn’t drink alcohol after training and was always asking for juice instead. For some time, he was the only pilot of the Armed Forces of Ukraine with an official callsign.

Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Juice had defended Ukrainian skies. By May 2023, he had racked up 500 hours of combat flights.

A mural called ‘The Ghost of Kyiv’, dedicated to Ukrainian air force pilots who were defending the sky over Kyiv during the Russian attacks, was drawn from the photo of Juice.

A mural ‘The Ghost of Kyiv’ in downtown Kyiv. 29 August 2022.
Photo: Roman Pilipey / EFE / EPA

Andrii “Juice” Pilshchykov was one of the drivers of reforms in the Air Force, trying to bring NATO standards into Ukrainian forces and campaigning for the supply of F-16 fighter jets for the Ukrainian army. In particular, Juice was one of the two pilots to travel to Washington to lobby the US Congress for them. Eventually, the US, along with the Netherlands and Denmark, pledged to provide the jets to Ukraine.

“The range of Western weaponry on the F-16s will enable intercepting enemy cruise missiles at significant distances right near our borders, instead of attempting to “catch” them somewhere in the central regions of Ukraine, Juice himself explained the importance of the modern fighter jets in a comment to BBC.

Ukrainian fighter pilot “Juice” on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, US.
Photo: Joseph Clark / The Washington Times

“Andrii Pilshchykov was not just a pilot but a young officer with exceptional knowledge and talent. He dedicated his brief yet incredibly bright life to military aviation, dreaming of F-16s in the Ukrainian skies. He undertook significant efforts in this field and substantially contributed to this cause,” wrote Yurii Ihnat, Spokesman for the Air Force Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, after the news about the tragedy.

Ukrainian fighter pilot ‘Juice’ inside the MiG-29, raising three fingers to represent
the trident, the national symbol of Ukraine.
Photo: ‘Juice’ / Ukrainian Air Force

Paul Potseluiev, a friend of Andrii, also posted a farewell on his Facebook page. “You loved your aircraft and literally lived in the sky. Our acquaintance wasn’t long, but I’m grateful to you for the important life lessons and the thrill that will undoubtedly remain in the Air Force, becoming a driving force for significant changes for the new generation of pilots. Eternal memory, Juice. Now you will literally guard our skies”.

The Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine bid farewell to Andrii Pilshchykov, Viacheslav Minka, and Serhii Prokazin according to Western traditions – with a piano setting alight in tribute to the deceased pilots. All three were posthumously awarded: Majors Viacheslav Minka and Serhii Prokazin were given the military rank of “lieutenant colonel” and Captain Andrii Pilshchykov was given the military rank of “major”.

The farewell ceremony for Andrii “Juice” Pilshchykov took place on August 29 in the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Kyiv.

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