Posted: 21.05.2024 16:55:18

Heroes of Belarus. Andrei Nichiporchik and Nikita Kukonenko. Striving for the sky

On May 19th, Belarus remembers the unparalleled feat of hero pilots — Major Andrei Nichiporchik and Lieutenant Nikita Kukonenko, who barely had time to realise that by their deed they proved the real meaning of being faithful to the military oath, the people and the profession

The Minsk Times new project is dedicated to people awarded the highest Hero of Belarus title

Heroes of Belarus Major Andrei Nichiporchik
and Lieutenant Nikita Kukonenko

Heroic feat

A Yak-130 military aircraft of the Lida Assault Aviaton Base crashed on May 19th, 2021 in the city of Baranovichi, Brest Region. The crew consisting of the flight commander of the combat training squadron, Major Andrei Nichiporchik, and the pilot of the combat training squadron, Lieutenant Nikita Kukonenko, were performing a planned training flight when they noticed a technical malfunction. The aircraft went into an uncontrollable chaotic movement and its trajectory began to deviate to the left, towards the city. The crew did not leave the plane and kept fighting, managing to switch to the backup control system. This enabled them to change the flight direction but not the altitude, which continued to fall rapidly. At an altitude of about 50 metres, with incredible efforts, the crew sent the plane to the only point that was outside the residential buildings — an empty plot of land between apartment blocks and private houses. It took a little over a minute from the moment of the emergency to the aircraft crash.
Hundreds of Belarusians could have died on that day, but the brave pilots made an unequivocal decision — to take the plane away. Later, when decrypting the black box, a recording of the talk between Andrei Nichiporchik and Nikita Kukonenko was found. The last words were the flight supervisor’s command, “Jump!” and the pilots’ answer, “No! The city is below us!” 

Andrei Nichiporchik (17.10.1987 – 19.05.2021) — a first class military pilot. He was born in Postavy, Vitebsk Region, graduated from the Military Academy of the Republic of Belarus. Since 2016, he worked as an instructor.

Nikita Kukonenko (18.09.1998 – 19.05.2021) — a military pilot. He was born in Polotsk, Vitebsk Region, graduated from the Military Academy of the Republic of Belarus. Since 2020, he served at the Lida Assault Aviation Base. 


By Presidential Decree No. 457 dated November 24th, 2021, pilots Andrei Nichiporchik and Nikita Kukonenko were posthumously awarded the Hero of Belarus title for the unprecedented courage and heroism in the performance of military duty.


► In honour of Nikita Kukonenko and Andrei Nichiporchik, a memorial sign has been installed in Baranovichi in the shape of two wrought cranes flying into the sky against the silhouette of the Yak-130 aircraft. 
► Streets in the new districts of Lida and Baranovichi got the names in honour of the fallen pilots.
► Secondary school No. 6 in Lida is named after Nikita Kukonenko, and secondary school No. 9 is named after Andrei Nichiporchik.
► Pioneer squads in Baranovichi, Lida and Tarnovo bear the names of the heroic pilots.
► Capsules with soil from the place of death of Heroes of Belarus pilots Andrei Nichiporchik and Nikita Kukonenko are stored in the National Memorial Complex ‘Temple-Monument in Honour of All Saints and in Memory of Victims Who Served to Save Our Fatherland’ in Minsk.
► Memorial plaques in honour of Heroes of Belarus Andrei Nichiporchik and Nikita Kukonenko were unveiled in Lida, Baranovichi and Polotsk. 
► A feature film dedicated to the feat of the Heroes of Belarus, military pilots Major Andrei Nichiporchik and Lieutenant Nikita Kukonenko, will be shot in Belarus. The film’s working title is One Sky for Two. The filming is scheduled for 2025. 
► Andrei Nichiporchik and Nikita Kukanenko have been permanently enrolled in the personnel lists of the 116th Guards Assault Unit.

Monument to Heroes of Belarus Nikita Kukonenko and Andrei Nichiporchik in Baranovichi, Brest Region     Pavel Bogush


Viktor Khrenin, Defence Minister of the Republic of Belarus, 
“What happened is irreversible, but the memory of the pilots and their heroic deed will forever remain in our hearts. The guys did not abandon the virtually uncontrollable aircraft and steered it away from residential buildings at the cost of their own lives. This made it possible to avoid the irreparable disaster. This deed shows that strong-minded and courageous people serve in our Armed Forces.”

Galina Nichiporchik, Andrei Nichiporchik’s mother,
“We did not raise him as a hero. We just taught him to live properly, like a conscientious human being. We taught him to be honest, fair, respect the elderly and love the Motherland, as we were taught in the Soviet years.”  

Sniper pilot Vladimir Nichiporchik, Andrei Nichiporchik’s father,
“Young people should know why people act like that in critical situations. My son made the right choice, although very difficult for us.” 

Colonel Aleksandr Krivets, Commander of the 116th Guards Assault Aviation Base,
“I trained both of them, we performed flights. I flew with Nikita when he was still a cadet. In life, Andrei and Nikita were positive, smiling people and real masters of their craft. Andrei was a high-level professional as an instructor. Nikita also proved himself to be a good officer and pilot in a short period of service. Only people who loved life could sacrifice their lives to save other people. Our entire team accepted the award of the Hero of Belarus title to Andrei and Nikita with great pride for the guys and pain in our souls due to the ‘posthumously’ prefix.” 

Here it is that tiny green square among the dense residential development — the place where the Yak-130 pitched down with precision 

Based on materials of, and Heroes of Belarus by Nikolai Machekin