In a few hours, the Antonov military airportat the gates of Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, fell into the hands of Russian forces, who dropped from helicopters with ropes firing machine guns, witnesses told AFP.
“There were people sitting in the helicopters, with the doors open, flying over our houses,” says Serguiy Storojouk outside the airport, grabbing their travel bags and fleeing the area.
“The helicopters arrived and the fighting began. They fired with machine guns and grenade launchers,” he adds.
The Russian helicopters arrived at around 11:00 am from Belarus, skimming the roofs of houses and causing panic on their way to the capital, an AFP journalist found.
Gostomol Airport is located on the northern edge of Kiev. The fighting that took place there was the closest to the capital on the first day of the Russian invasion.
According to Olexandre Kovtonenko, a 30-year-old civilian who lives nearby, in addition to the helicopters, two fighter jets arrived and fired missiles at Ukrainian ground units at the beginning of the assault.
“Then there were shots, it lasted three hours,” he tells AFP. “Then three other planes came and started shooting,” he adds.
“Russian troops are already here”
“Two helicopters were flying behind me and shooting on the side of the road,” says Mykola Chymko, a local taxi driver.
“Then I went back and saw about 100 people. Their uniforms were not ours,” he says.
The soldiers and paratroopers wore white armbands and also an orange and black striped insignia, that of Saint George, which identifies them as Russians.
The Ukrainian and Russian armed forces exchanged fire several times an hour. Behind the rumblings, black smoke billowed into the gray sky.
the ukrainian president, Volodymyr ZelenskyHe said he expected the Russian forces to be quickly surrounded and destroyed.
But near the airport, Ukrainian forces were few, AFP journalists noted.
Russia has totally eliminated Ukraine’s defenses and now has “complete air superiority” as the Kiev government has no more resources against such an offensive, a senior Western intelligence official said on Thursday.
In the area, some residents were wandering along a road on bicycles, on foot or trying to hitchhike. At a gas station, cars tried to fill their tanks before fleeing.
In Gostómel, Ludmyla Klimova trembles between each explosion. She doesn’t know what to do or where to go.
“The base is in smoke, it was bombed, our houses are close. We don’t know where to go, my parents are here, my sister,” he says in the town square.
“The Russian troops are already here, one of my friends lives there and the Russians have already approached my mother with a machine gun,” he says.