The Ukrainian forces have consistently thwarted Russia’s war plans, from night ambushes with quad bikes to attacks with drones to deliberately sabotage road and railway bridges.
According to Ukrainian defenders, it means that any Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempt to claim his invasion of Ukraine is successful on Monday’s Victory Day has been substantially undermined.
They claimed that their unconventional tactics prevented Russian troops from carrying out what was intended to be a lightning attack on the capital during the initial phase.
Russia’s inability to resist Ukraine also means that Russia faces a costly war for supremacy in the east and south of the country. However, the threat of a second push towards Kyiv is still present. The capital of Ukraine stated that they are prepared for it and will repel it.
The five-week long Battle for Kyiv began on the 24th of February when President Putin invaded Ukraine. It was a fierce, five-week battle that pitted Ukrainian troops, border guards, and volunteers against one among the most powerful militaries in the world.
Experts in Western defense had predicted that the capital would fall within days.
The Ukrainian side, aided by a clear plan and flow of increasingly lethal Western weaponry, defied all predictions and forced the Russian troops to reverse. They were forced to regroup and reposition in the east.
Sky News interviewed soldiers, border guards, and volunteers from Ukraine who were involved in the battle. They also spoke with ordinary families whose lives have suffered because of Russia’s war.
These are their stories.
At just after 4.30 a.m. on Day One of the Invasion, Russia attacked a border guard station in forestland near the border of Ukraine and Belarus.
Major Artem Lazutin (41), said that a drone dropped explosives onto a group tents where border patrols were sleeping. This injured seven.
He said, “Hearing those blasts, I realized the war had started.”
The border guards positioned themselves near a major motorway bridge as well as a railway bridge that lead to Belarus over the Dnipro River.
He said, “That afternoon, working together with the military we blew up bridges with mines in order to stop any Russian vehicles being able to pass.”
To stop the Russian advance, the Ukrainian defenders used the tactic of deliberately destroying bridges repeatedly.
The Ukrainian defenses were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of Russian tanks, armoured trucks, artillery, and trucks.
Although the border guards were mostly retracted to protect key northern cities like Chernihiv and other important areas, some personnel ended up behind enemy lines.
According to the head, the national border guard force in Chernihiv, the men risked their lives by providing information about the movements and locations of Russian positions.
When asked how he felt after he realized Russian troops were invading his land, Colonel Oleksandr Chronii replied: “I wanted them all to be destroyed and removed from our land.” This desire has not vanished. “I believe that every Ukrainian will fight until these evil spirits leave our land.”
Russian commanders targeted Kyiv, the north of Ukraine, by land from multiple entry points. They moved in from Belarus through the Chernobyl and Chernihiv regions in the north and then entered Russia through Ukraine’s northern-eastern Sumy region.
They launched an air attack to capture the airport in Hostomel, 12 miles northwest from Kyiv.
Some elite Russian paratroopers flew in helicopters over the sprawling countryside to the airbase. Others tried to land directly at the facility.
Russia wanted to be in a position to take over the civilian airport that was home to the largest transport aircraft in the world.
However, the Ukrainian forces had other plans.
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The first day, the defense of the airport was the responsibility of one commander. He asked not to be identified. At 11 o’clock in the morning, he saw Russian helicopters coming in low.
As the assault began, Russian missiles bombarded a minibus from the front airport.
Ukrainian defenders opened fire and smashed at least three helicopters from the sky. They had to also confront the paratroopers that had just landed.
The commander stated, with his face covered in a black balaclava, that he had fired on them as long as they had ammunition. “We then directed our artillery onto it to damage it. This stopped the enemy from landing their transport aircraft.
After running out of ammunition, the commander ordered his troops to move back.
Over the course of five weeks, the airport and the surrounding area were a crucial frontline as the Battle for Kyiv raged.
The human cost
The Russian forces were eventually defeated, but not before inflicting great damage.
Bucha, near Hostomel was one of the most devastated.
Global horror was sparked by the discovery of a mass burial ground in a church. There were also bodies found in the streets. Evidence of torture, murder, and rape. Russia is being investigated by international investigators.
The trail of terror is extensive and can be traced back to the Belarus border.
Yahidne is a remote, picturesque farming village just outside Chernihiv. It is one of the most well-known places of misery.
It is now in ruins.
Russian troops held over 300 villagers, including more than 60 children, captive in the basement school for nearly a month while they occupied the village.
The underground space was crowded and confined. There was limited access to water and food, and there was no ventilation.
Candles were the only source of light. Children aged between two and ten years old were only distracted by a small collection of school books, along with some crayons.
Families were crowded together with babies sleeping on blankets on the ground and their parents watching from tiny school chairs.
The conditions represented a death sentence for many elderly people.
According to survivors, 12 people were killed in the basement. Sometimes, it was impossible to move the bodies of the deceased for several days. They remained among the living.
Tania, a local resident did not want her full name to be revealed.
She stayed with her husband, their two sons aged 10 and 12, in the basement.
As a communal toilet, a bucket was used. To protect her children from bombs outside, she would cover them with her body.
Tania stated, “I was horrified that someone had died. And when you find yourself in such situations, with a deceased person lying beside you,” It was frightening. It was scary to think that we might all die very soon after the deaths of the second and third persons.
Some names of the victims of the Russian bombardments were also etched on the wall.
To pass the time, children also drew on the walls. You will find pictures of sad faces as well as calendars that count the days underground.
Tania described how relieved she was when the Ukrainian forces managed to push out the Russian troops from the village. This was part of an abrupt withdrawal across the entire north.
“On the 1st of April, we saw our flag peeking out from the woods. She began to weep at the moment and said it was a wonderful memory.
“They [the Ukrainian troops] arrived here. We shouted, “They [Ukrainian troops] came here.” They replied, “Glory to our heroes!” They arrived. We hugged. It was a moment we waited for.
Oleksiy Potiy (another Yahidne resident) emerged from the basement at 86 as the oldest person in village, after the deaths of those older than him.
Although he survived the Second World War and was able to prepare for Russia’s invasion, he did not survive.
He said, “They all died, they all suffocated because there was simply too much air,” about those who didn’t make it out alive, and admitted that he thought he would be the next.
“I went to the toilet to wash my hair after I got back from work. “I was afraid to look in the mirror at myself – there were only bone,” Mr Potiy stated, prodding at a jacket sleeves to reveal how thin his left arm had become.
He is afraid that Russian forces might return, as are many others in the north and Kyiv.
“I am still anxious,” said Mr Potiy, leaning on a walkingstick.
“Whenever I hear a bang I think: What’s it?”
Quad bikes, Drones and the fightback
Even worse, the impact of the invasion might have been.
A 40-mile column containing Russian armored vehicles was advancing on Kyiv at the beginning. This was amid warnings that the capital might fall.
The column seemed to be stuck for several days, then it dispersed under insurgent-style attack.
Ukrainian defenders claimed that remote-controlled mines were used for targeting a few of the vehicles.
According to commanders with knowledge of the missions, small groups would also use quad bikes, night vision glasses, drones, and sniper rifles to travel up to Russian positions and strike them before speeding away.
Lieutenant Colonel Yaroslav Hochar stated, “You shouldn’t imagine that we look like Mad Max guys but we did use quad bikes…because they are very mobile.”
“You can quickly move between positions and return quickly.”
The supply and logistic lines of Russia, such as fuel and food stores, were a target for the attacks. Even the most powerful army can fail without access to essential supplies.
Aerorozvidka is a civilian non-governmental organisation (NGO), founded by Lieutenant Colonel Honchar. It supports the military’s aerial reconnaissance skills.
It was established after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014.
Aerorozvidka is a prime example of how civilian volunteers can play an important role in Ukraine’s war effort alongside full-time military personnel.
To counter Russia’s firepower, drones equipped with cameras and armed using explosives have been a powerful weapon.
They are cheap and easy to construct and can be used to destroy more expensive weapons systems such as radars and tanks.
Aerorozvidka has many videos that show drones from Ukraine destroying Russian targets.
Vadym is part of the reconnaissance team. He asked for his first name.
After creating a drone with eight blades that look like helicopters, he is considered the father of the drone.
He stated that the aircraft played a crucial role in the victory of the Battle for Kyiv.
Vadym stated that drones can first identify the location of enemy armoured vehicle,” he said while flying one in a test flight.
These are shock drones. They can strike quickly.
The defense of the capital was also possible with the help of more conventional Ukrainian forces.
Lieutenant Colonel Oleg Kolbzarenko was the commander of an artillery battalion which helped to stop invading troops from crossing another important river, this time the Irpin River at Gorenka in the outskirts Kyiv.
He stated that if Russian troops were able to enter Gorenka it would have a 90% chance they would make it to Kyiv.
Gorenka couldn’t be surrendered under any circumstance. These people remained steadfast until the very end. They knew that Kyiv was behind and they had nowhere to turn.
Ukrainian forces again destroyed river crossings, before aiming fire on Russian positions.
According to the commander, his troops were equipped with British and Western weapons, including antitank missiles. This proved vital.
He said that it would have been “many times harder” to repel Russian troops without them.
When asked if he had any message for President Putin before Russia’s annual Victory Day, Colonel Kobzarenko replied: “I don’t have the desire to address the occupier or the enemy… We know that they had been dreaming and planning to organize a parade in Kyiv, 9 May. They wanted to create a theatre of absurdity and show the world they had won.
“Now, I can see that they want to lessen their enthusiasm and ambitions and show some victory somewhere – in Mariupol (or in the east) of Ukraine. Ukraine will not be defeated. We will persevere and will not be defeated. This is our land. While we don’t claim their territory, we won’t give up ours.”