Ukrainian Armed Forces
Ukrainian Air Force
7th Tactical Aviation Brigade
40th Tactical Aviation Brigade
Ukrainian Air Assault and Ground Units including the Ukrainian National Guard and Special Forces
Ukrainian Air Assault Forces
Ukrainian Ground Forces
72nd Mechanized Brigade
Special Operations Forces
3rd Special Purpose Regiment
Territorial Defense Forces
National Guard of Ukraine
4th Rapid Reaction Brigade
Security Service of Ukraine
Irregular civilian volunteers (militia)
The 7th Bomber Aviation Regiment was formed in 1951. In January 1992 the regiment took the oath of loyalty to the Ukrainian people. On October 2005 the former 32 Independent Reconnaissance Aviation Squadron at Kolminyya joined the brigade as its reconnaissance aviation squadron. In 2005 the Brigade became the first UA Air Force formation to be composed of professional soldiers and not conscripts.
In August 2019 Su-24M took part in the international air show “Gdynia Aerobaltik 2019” in Poland. The Ukrainian Su-24 bomber has become a participant of the international air show for the first time. In December 2019 Su-24M from the 7th Tactical Aviation Brigade have completed testing air-to-air docking of the retractable refueling probe for the first time in 20 years. The first flight was successfully performed without refueling.
On 24 February 2022, a Ukrainian Air Force Sukhoi Su-24, from the 7th Tactical Aviation Brigade, was shot down by the Russian forces in the north of Ukraine, reportedly in the area of Hostomel, Kyiv Oblast. The crew consisting of UA Major Mykola Savchuk and UA Major Dmytro Kulikov did not survive.
In the annals of the Battle of Hostomel, two valiant Ukrainian heroes emerged, Major Dmytro KULYKOV and Major Mykola SAVCHUK, whose unwavering determination to confront the occupiers ignited a flame of honor and bravery.
These consummate professionals executed their combat tasks flawlessly, leaving an indelible mark on the first day of the full-scale war. Countless units of enemy military equipment and hundreds of racist occupiers were vanquished by their heroic aerial maneuvers. Little did they know that this day would mark their final flight, culminating in an act of self-sacrifice that would forever be etched in the hearts of their fellow countrymen.
Both hailing from eastern Ukraine, Dmytro and Mykola nurtured their dreams of conquering the sky from a tender age, shaping their destinies as devoted military aviators. They honed their skills at the renowned Ivan Kozhedub Kharkiv Air Force University, forging a strong bond with their shared passion.
Dmytro Kulikov, a resolute commander of the aviation squadron, exemplified dedication to duty during the 30th anniversary parade of Ukraine’s Independence, showcasing his mastery in the skies. Even amidst the gravest challenges, he shielded his family from worry, embodying the spirit of a true hero. His wife, Yulia, cherishes his memory, holding onto his promise that everything would be fine, and that Ukraine would emerge victorious.
Mykola Savchuk, a brilliant navigator in the brigade’s ranks, embodied a thirst for knowledge and was widely recognized for his expertise. While embracing the responsibilities of a military career, he never neglected his family, dedicating every free moment to their happiness. His tragic loss devastated his wife, Alexandra, and their three children, but they found solace in the memories of the joyful moments shared with their beloved husband and father.
The war unfolded tragically for both families, as it did for many others. But the courage, determination, and sacrifice of these two heroes ignited a beacon of hope that reverberated across the nation. With unwavering belief in the defenders of their homeland, the people of Starokostiantyniv bid farewell to their fallen heroes, united in grief and gratitude.
For their extraordinary valor in defending Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Major Dmytro Oleksandrovich Kulikov and Major Mykola Volodymyrovych Savchuk were posthumously honored with the esteemed Order of Courage III degree, bestowed upon them by the President of Ukraine himself.
Yuliya says that she did not immediately believe that her beloved is gone. I thought, in the hospital or in captivity, I hoped to the last. And then she put on a black scarf, looked at her daughter and said: “Living, your father is a Hero, for the sake of the memory of his feat, for the courage of boys like him, and for you, my dear ones.”
Even now, 222 days since the start of the Russian invasion, the memory of these brave souls is etched in the hearts of their compatriots. Each morning begins with a solemn moment of silence, paying homage to those who laid down their lives in defense of their homeland. Throughout the nation, cities and villages reverberate with the sorrowful farewell to the fallen heroes, as gratitude and remembrance intertwine.
Yet, as time passes, the memory of these brave souls only grows stronger, fueling the resolve of the Ukrainian people. We shall never forget the sacrifices made by Major Dmytro KULYKOV, Major Mykola SAVCHUK, and all their comrades-in-arms. Their valor and devotion to Ukraine shall forever inspire us, and their memory will endure as a beacon of courage and honor. Glory to those who gave everything for the freedom and prosperity of our beloved land.
On 27 February 2022, an Ukrainian Air Force Sukhoi Su-24M, from the 7th Tactical Aviation Brigade, was shot down in the area between the villages of Berezivka and Lyubymivka, Kyiv Oblast. The crew consisting of mayor Ruslan Belous and kapitan Roman Dongalyuk did not survive.
As of August 2023, another twelve unidentified Su-24M/MRs from the unit were reported lost or damaged during the Russian invasion of Ukraine:
On 24 February 2022, a Ukrainian Su-24 was lost in Poltava. Both pilots survived. Another Ukrainian Su-24 was lost in Hostomel; both pilots, Major Dmytro Kulykov and Major Mykola Savchuk, died.
On 2 March 2022, a Su-24 was shot down near Novohrad-Volynskyi; the pilot, Colonel Mykola Kovalenko, and navigator, Captain Yevhen Kazimirov, died.
On 12 March 2022, a Su-24 was shot down by Russian forces near Bilyaivka village, Beryslav Raion, Kherson Oblast. The pilots, Valeriy Oshkalo and Roman Chekhun, died.
On 21 March 2022, a Su-24 piloted by Viacheslav Khodakivskyi was lost near Pokrovsky district, Zaporizhya, Ukraine. The pilot died.
On 30 March 2022 a Ukrainian Su-24 bomber was shot down in Kirovohrad, Kropyvnytskyi region. The crew from 7th Tactical Aviation Brigade, Maksym Sikalenko, and navigator Kostiantin Horodnychev, were reported dead. The same day another Su-24 was recorded damaged with a trail of smoke in Rivne, western Ukraine on social media.
On 3 April, 2022 a Ukrainian Su-24 bomber was reported destroyed in Ukraine. Footage of the crash site showed the wreck of an AL-21 engine, used in the Su-24.
On 19 May 2022 a Su-24 from the 7th Tactical Aviation Brigade was lost near Pylove. The pilots, Lt. Colonel Ihor Khmara and navigator Mayor Illia Nehar, died.
On 26 June 2022 a Ukrainian Su-24MR piloted by the Commander of the 40th Tactical Aviation Brigade Colonel Mykhailo Matiushenko and an unidentified Major was lost during a military mission on Snake Island, Black Sea. Both crewmen died.
On 29 September 2022 a Ukrainian Su-24 was hit by Russian surface-to-air missile in Kherson Oblast. The aircraft was recorded on video with one of its engines on fire before it crashed. The pilots managed to eject.
On 1 March 2023, a Ukrainian Su-24M was shot down near Bakhmut. Both crewmembers, lieutenant colonel Viktor Volynets and senior lieutenant Solomennikov, were killed.
(Military Unit Number А1789) is a formation of the Ukrainian Air Force, composed primarily of Mikoyan MiG-29 aircraft, that is based at Vasylkiv. In January 1992 the regiment took the oath of loyalty to the Ukrainian people.
Upon the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the 40th Tactical Aviation Brigade played an important role in the Kyiv offensive. Its fighter aircraft battled the Russian Air Force over Kyiv and attempted to disrupt Russian advances on the ground. The unit took part in the Battle of Antonov Airport and the Battle of Kyiv; one of its pilots, Lt. Col. Vyacheslav Yerko (posthumously Hero of Ukraine, Gold Star Order), reportedly shot down four Russian aircraft on the invasion’s first day before being killed.
Aircraft: MiG-29, MiG-29UB, MiG-29M1, L39M1
An example of media coverage from the battle of Hostomel included a Forbes article headlined “Five Brave Ukrainian MiG Pilots Blunted the Russian Attack On Kyiv On Day One Of The War. Not All Of Them Survived, by David Axe, Forbes Staff on December 9, 2022.
The Kremlin had a bold—some might say reckless—plan for swiftly defeating the Ukrainian armed forces and toppling the government in Kyiv. The plan, involving simultaneous heliborne and armored assaults on Kyiv, ultimately failed. Ukrainian border guards, local territorial troops and fighter pilots fought hard in the first hours of the Russian assault starting in the early morning hours on Feb. 24. They succeeded in slowing the Russians and buying time for Ukrainian reinforcements to arrive.
But many of them, including Ukrainian air force MiG-29 pilot Lt. Col. Vyacheslav Yerko, died in the fight. Yerko’s story in particular is a window into those heady early hours of Feb. 24, when the Russian gambit for a short war came close to succeeding—and then spectacularly backfired. The Russian rockets and missiles struck first. Long-range munitions rained down on Ukrainian bases and airfields. Among the targets in the pre-dawn hours was Vasylkiv air base, 20 miles southwest of central Kyiv.
When the sun rose, a 700-man Russian air-assault force, riding in 24 Mil Mi-8 transport helicopters escorted by 10 Mil Mi-24 and Kamov Ka-52 gunships, flew at low level toward Hostomel airport on the northwest edge of Kyiv just 25 miles north of Vasylkiv. Russian air force fighters flew top cover.
The heliborne soldiers were supposed to seize and hold Hostomel and allow thousands more Russian troops to fly into Kyiv at the same time a Russian armored force rolled toward the city from the northwest and northeast.
The armored thrusts would collapse weeks later as Ukrainian infantry packing Javelin anti-tank missiles ambushed the Russians’ supply convoys. By then the Kremlin’s Kyiv gambit already had failed. It failed when the Ukrainian air force, army and border guard prevented a quick takeover at Hostomel.
Vasylkiv is home to the 40th Tactical Aviation Brigade, one of four brigades operating Ukraine’s roughly 50 twin-engine, supersonic Mikoyan MiG-29 fighters. The rockets and missiles the Russian lobbed at Vasylkiv that first night failed to damage the base or its resident fighters. Tipped off by U.S. intelligence, the Ukrainian air force had spread out its jets, complicating Russian targeting.
The 40th Tactical Aviation Brigade’s MiG-29 pilots were instrumental in this decisive early victory for Ukraine. Five MiG-29s took off, turned north and sliced into the Russian helicopter formation rotoring toward the airport.
Yerko alone shot down two Mi-24s, according to the Ukrainian defense ministry. Ukrainian pilots and air-defense troops on the ground in total downed at least four of the 34 helicopters in the Hostomel assault, and damaged others.
The Ukrainian MiGs disrupted the Russians’ air support, depriving the hundreds of soldiers at Hostomel of the firepower they needed to defeat the Ukrainian border guards and territorial troops holding much of the airport. Ukrainian air force Sukhoi Su-24 bombers flew in at low level and dropped sticks of unguided bombs on the hapless Russian attackers.
The Ukrainian defenders held on around Hostomel until special operations forces and heavier active army formations arrived. The Russians reinforced their positions at the airport with their own heavier forces that rolled south from Belarus, but by Feb. 27 the Ukrainians had massed artillery around the airport—and were systematically demolishing Russian positions.
The Russians never were able to fly forces into Hostomel after that first day. The airport battle dragged on for several more weeks, but the likely outcome was obvious after just a few hours.
It’s not clear exactly when the surviving Russians pulled out of Hostomel. But it was before March 29, the date the Kremlin ordered its battered forces around Kyiv to retreat back to Belarus and southern Russia.
Hundreds of Russians and Ukrainians died fighting for Hostomel airport. Yerko was among the casualties. After reportedly shooting down two helicopters the morning of Feb. 24, he pointed his MiG-29 at the Russian fixed-wing aircraft operating over Kyiv.
Over the next 24 hours he shot down a Suhkoi Su-25 attack jet and a Sukhoi Su-35 fighter, the Ukrainian defense ministry claimed. There is possible visual evidence of the former kill. The latter kill, if it actually occurred, didn’t leave any obvious traces.
The air battle over Kyiv in those first 24 hours was costly for both sides. The Russians shot down at least three MiG-29s, including Yerko’s. The colonel managed to eject. But “cowardly” Russian troops on the ground shot him dead as he floated down, the Ukrainian defense ministry claimed.
Three months later, after the Ukrainian army had finished pushing the Russian army out of northern Ukraine, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky awarded Yerko the title “Hero of Ukraine, Gold Star Order.”
Yerko posthumously shares the award with some of Ukraine’s bravest and most famous pilots, including Maj. Vadym Voroshylov, who in October survived the destruction of his own MiG-29 … and snapped a bloody selfie as he parachuted to safety.
Amidst the turbulent backdrop of the Battle of Hostomel, the Ukrainian Air Assault Forces, known as the Десáнтно-штурмові́ військá Украї́ни (DShV) or formerly Високомобі́льні десáнтні військá Украї́ни (VDV), stand as the elite airborne forces of Ukraine. Established in 1992, these formidable troops were initially part of the Ukrainian Ground Forces but later emerged as an independent branch within the Armed Forces in 2016.
The Air Assault Forces boast an unwavering state of combat readiness, serving as the high-mobility arm of the military and excelling in air assaults and military parachuting operations. Renowned for their prowess and versatility, they were previously dispatched by Ukraine to engage in peacekeeping endeavors worldwide prior to the Russo-Ukrainian War.
A testament to their gallantry came in August 2014 when the 95th Air Assault Brigade executed a daring raid deep behind separatist lines. Armed with reinforcements and armor assets, the brigade launched a surprise attack, traversing 450 kilometers, and successfully neutralized multiple Russian tanks and artillery before returning to their homeland. This audacious maneuver ranks among the most extensive armored raids in military history.
In 2017, the Ukrainian Airmobile Forces underwent reforms, rebranding their professional holiday as Air Assault Forces Day on November 21st, symbolizing a departure from Soviet-Russian influence. President Petro Poroshenko commemorated the occasion, honoring the fallen paratroopers who had bravely laid down their lives in the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War.
As the Russian invasion engulfed Ukraine in 2022, the UA AAF took a prominent role in the land combat actions alongside their fellow brethren in arms from the Ground Forces, Territorial Defense, and National Guard.
The structure of the Ukrainian Air Assault Forces encompasses several airmobile brigades, each staffed with up to 2,200 personnel, including infantry, artillery, and tank units. These formidable brigades operate in tactical groups, equipped with BTRs and BMP IFVs, displaying remarkable cohesion and firepower in the heat of battle.
In 2014, the staffing of an airmobile brigade was brought up to 1,200 servicemen. Each brigade was given at least one artillery battalion from the 25th and 55th artillery brigades and a tank battalion. Currently, the total staffing of the brigades ranges from 1,000 to 2,200 personnel, depending on the deployment. Most of the brigades operate in 1-2 battalion tactical groups, in each of which, in addition to infantry battalions, there are up to two field artillery battalions and at least one tank company equipped with BTRs and BMP IFVs.
Ukrainian 72nd Mechanized Brigade
The Battle of Hostomel showcased the valor of the 72nd Mechanized Brigade, a distinguished formation of the Ukrainian Ground Forces, known for its historical legacy as the Black Zaporozhians. The brigade’s origins trace back to the 29th Rifle Division (2nd formation) and later the 72nd Guards Rifle Division of the Soviet Ground Forces, eventually evolving into a motor rifle division in 1957.
Amidst the intense Ukrainian-Russian conflict in Donbas, the brigade played a crucial role as part of the Anti-Terrorist Operation since 2014. Notable engagements include their fierce fighting on the Russian-Ukrainian border and in the Azov region during the summer of 2014, as well as their winter campaign in the industrial zone near Avdiivka in 2016.
In recognition of their unwavering dedication, the brigade was bestowed with the honorary title of the Black Zaporozhian Cavalry Regiment, a tribute to the military formation of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, in August 2017.
Throughout the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the 72nd Mechanized Brigade played a pivotal role in pivotal battles across the Kyiv Oblast and the Donbas region.
Historically, the brigade’s lineage can be traced back to its transformation from the 29th Rifle Division to the 72nd Guards Rifle Division during World War II. This transformation was marked by significant battles for liberation, including the capture of Belgorod, Kharkiv, and Krasnohrad, and notable awards such as the Order of the Red Banner.
During the Cold War, the brigade continued to serve as a motor rifle division under the Soviet Union, maintaining its strength at 25% with one full-strength regiment.
Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the brigade was transferred to Ukraine, and in 2002, it was restructured into a mechanized brigade.
In recent times, the brigade faced challenges during the 2014 pro-Russian conflict in Ukraine, particularly during the Mariupol standoff. Despite facing overwhelming odds and being surrounded and cut off from supply, the brave soldiers of the brigade demonstrated remarkable courage and resilience, with some elements successfully breaking out of encirclement.
The brigade’s history has seen various changes in honorary titles, reflecting its dedication and contributions to the Ukrainian nation. From the removal of its “Red Banner” honorific to the addition of the prestigious “Black Zaporozhian” title in honor of the Ukrainian People’s Army Black Zaporizhian Cavalry Regiment, the brigade’s legacy continues to be written in bravery and sacrifice on the battlefield. The Battle of Hostomel stands as yet another chapter in their storied history, testament to their indomitable spirit and commitment to defending their homeland.
During the Battle of Hostomel on the morning of 24 February 2022, the Russian Armed Forces initiated a special military operation into Ukraine, posing a significant threat to Kyiv, the capital city. The 72nd Mechanized Brigade, alongside special operations units, the national guard, and hastily formed Territorial Defense Forces, formed a formidable infantry force of approximately 20,000 soldiers to defend the city.
Armed with advanced western weaponry like the FGM-148 Javelin and NLAW anti-tank missiles, the brigade engaged the Russian 35th, 36th, and 41st Combined Arms armies that were advancing towards Kyiv from Belarus and southern Russia. The brigade’s primary role was reconnaissance of the Russian formations, providing targeting data for effective strikes by the Ukrainian artillery brigades, including the 44th Artillery.
Recognizing the danger posed by Russia’s presence at Hostomel, Ukraine’s top general, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, ordered the 72nd Mechanized Brigade to launch a counterattack. Joined by the 4th Rapid Reaction Brigade and supported by the Ukrainian Air Force, they initiated a fierce attack on the Russian forces, successfully surrounding Hostomel Airport and forcing the remaining Russian troops into nearby forests.
As the battle progressed, Ukrainian forces from the Georgian Legion and Air Assault Forces joined in, preventing Russia from flying in reinforcements via Il-76 aircraft. The brigade continued to apply pressure to the Russian vanguard formations, engaging in tank battles and serving as forward observers for artillery strikes, effectively stalling the Russian advance for several days.
Stymied by the Ukrainian counterattacks and concentrated artillery fire, the Russian units were forced into narrow corridors, making their situation untenable. Ukrainian forces ambushed and trapped a Russian armored column in Brovary, causing heavy fighting in the area, with Russian forces reportedly resorting to violence against civilians suspected of aiding the Ukrainians.
By March 29, 2022, the Russian forces in the region were ordered to retreat, allowing Ukrainian forces to reclaim territory, such as in Brovary. However, the subsequent Donbas offensive in the Bakhmut area resulted in substantial casualties for the 72nd Mechanized Brigade, with many professional soldiers being replaced by conscripts.
In August, the brigade was redeployed to Pavlivka, facing off against 600 Russian troops and 30 armored vehicles. A fierce battle ensued, and the Russian 155th Naval Infantry Brigade was committed to the fight, causing significant casualties on both sides. Eventually, the brigade had to withdraw from the area.
By January 2023, the brigade fortified Vuhledar following Pavlivka’s fall, and in the face of a renewed assault from the 155th Guards Naval Infantry, the Russian advance ultimately failed. The 72nd Mechanized Brigade played a crucial role in thwarting the Russian offensive, utilizing their Javelin anti-tank missiles to destroy enemy tanks and infantry fighting vehicles, inflicting heavy losses on the enemy and protecting their territory.
Step-by-Step in the early days of the war and the Battle of Hostomel for the 72nd Brigade.
– Date: 24 February 2022
– Event: Russian Armed Forces launch a special military operation into Ukraine.
– Ukrainian Defense: The 72nd Mechanized Brigade, along with special operations, national guard, and Territorial Defense Forces, forms an estimated 20,000 infantry force to defend Kyiv, the capital.
– Russian Advance: The 35th, 36th, and 41st Combined Arms armies advance from Belarus and southern Russia towards Kyiv.
2. Engaging the Russian Forces
– Weaponry: The 72nd Mechanized Brigade utilizes western supplied weaponry, including FGM-148 Javelin and NLAW anti-tank missiles, to destroy Russian tanks from a distance of up to a mile away.
– Reconnaissance Role: The brigade’s primary role is reconnaissance of Russian formations and providing targeting data to artillery brigades, such as the 44th Artillery, for effective strikes.
– Artillery Impact: Ukraine’s artillery has a significant effect, reducing cohesion among Russian battalions.
3. Counterattack at Hostomel
– Ukrainian General’s Action: General Valerii Zaluzhnyi orders the brigade to organize a counterattack against the Russian airhead at Hostomel, posing a threat to Kyiv.
– Combined Effort: The 4th Rapid Reaction Brigade and Ukrainian Air Force support the 72nd Mechanized Brigade’s attack, engaging Russian forces lacking armor support but with close air support from Su-25 aircraft.
– Reinforcements: More Ukrainian units, including the Georgian Legion and Air Assault Forces, join the fight, preventing Russia from flying in troops via Il-76 aircraft.
– Victory at Hostomel: Ukrainian forces surround Hostomel Airport, forcing the remaining Russian troops to retreat into nearby forests.
4. Pressuring Russian Vanguard Formations
– Forward Observers: The 72nd Mechanized Brigade continues to apply pressure on Russian vanguard formations, destroying tanks and IFVs and serving as forward observers for artillery strikes.
– Artillery Fire Impact: Concentrated artillery fire causes significant losses for Russian units, stalling their advance for several days, leading to the infamous 40-mile convoy north of Kyiv.
5. Counterattacking and Squeezing Russian Units
– Narrow Corridors: Ukrainian units counterattack, squeezing Russian forces into narrow corridors, making their situation untenable.
– Ambush in Brovary: The brigade ambushes a Russian armored column from the 90th Guards Tank Division in Brovary, trapping the middle vehicles while some Russian forces flee into nearby forests.
– Heavy Fighting: Despite their retreat, heavy fighting continues in the area for several days, with reports of Russian forces targeting civilians suspected of aiding Ukrainian forces.
– Russian Retreat: On 29 March, the Russian Ministry of Defense orders forces in the region to retreat and redeploy for fighting in the east. Ukrainian forces push the Russian forces out of Brovary on 1 April.
6. Participation in the Donbas Offensive
– Battle of Bakhmut: The 72nd Mechanized Brigade participates in the Donbas offensive, particularly in the Battle of Bakhmut.
– Casualties: Heavy fighting results in substantial casualties for the brigade’s professional soldiers, leading to the replacement of some positions with conscripts. The reconnaissance company is significantly reduced in numbers due to casualties.
7. Redeployment to Pavlivka and Withdrawal
– August Redeployment: The brigade is redeployed to Pavlivka, where they encounter 600 Russian troops and 30 armored vehicles, culminating in a battle in late October.
– Russian 155th Naval Infantry Brigade: On November 3, the Russian 155th Naval Infantry Brigade joins the battle, resulting in significant casualties for both sides.
– Brigade Withdrawal: The brigade eventually withdraws from the area due to heavy losses.
8. Fortification at Vuhledar and Victory against the 155th Guards Naval Infantry
– Vuhledar Fortification: By January 2023, the brigade fortifies Vuhledar after the fall of Pavlivka against a renewed assault from the 155th Guards Naval Infantry.
– Russian Advance: The Russian advance initially succeeds, breaking through frontal lines, but ultimately fails due to casualties, lack of ammunition, and organizational challenges.
– Victory with Javelin Missiles: Members of the 72nd Mechanized Brigade use Javelin anti-tank missiles to destroy Naval Infantry tanks and an infantry fighting vehicle.
– The 72nd Mechanized Brigade’s contributions played a crucial role in defending Ukraine’s capital and resisting the Russian invasion, demonstrating resilience, bravery, and effective military strategies.
Organization of the 72nd Mechanized Brigade, Bila Tserkva
Ukraine’s top general, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, recognized the danger Russia’s airhead at Hostomel posed to Ukraine’s capital and ordered the brigade to organize a counterattack. With the 4th Rapid Reaction Brigade, and support from the Ukrainian Air Force, launched their attack on the Russian forces who lacked armor support but had close air support in the form of at least two Su-25’s. As the operation progressed, more Ukrainian units from the Georgian Legion and Air Assault Forces joined the fight, denying Russia the ability to fly in troops via Il-76. Ukrainian units surrounded the airport by the evening and forced the remaining Russian troops into nearby forests. Later, the 4th Rapid Reaction Brigade posted on their Facebook an image of Ukrainian soldiers celebrating while holding a bullet-riddled flag inside Hostomel Airport.
An analysis of the Ukrainian use of Field Artillery during the defense of Kyiv and the Battle of Hostomel provides key insights and valuable information that warfighters can use now in their training, planning and future operations.
Master Sergeant Stolytsia, Ukrainian National Guard Rapid Reaction Brigade described for media about the Battle of Hostomel, provided by the Ukrainian National Guard..
“The city of Hostomel and Antonov Airport became one of the initial and main targets of Russian forces during the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation against Ukraine.
The Airfield was supposed to provide a bridgehead for the rapid relocation of forces armored vehicles and supplies, and the total seizure of strategic routes towards Ukraine’s Capital Kiev.
The massive use of Aviation may well remain the most challenging and unsuccessful operation in the history of the Russian military.
The elite Russian paratroopers were sent to capture Hostomel by nearly 40 helicopters, led by a Mi-24 helicopter known as a “flying tank” for transporting troops. About 30 Mi-8 multi-purpose helicopters tailed by a Ka-52 alligator, considered to be the deadliest one the Russian defense industry has ever produced.
The attack was also supported by Su-25 jet aircraft and Su-24 bombers but the Ukrainian military repelled their attack preventing them from using the airport for its intended purpose.
Ukrainian forces initially evicted the Russian airborne troops from the airport but were soon engaged by Russian reinforcements.
On February 25, 2022 the Russian forces recaptured Hostomel Airport from the Ukrainians. As a result the battle shifted from the airport to the nearby town as the Russian forces began to establish a foothold in Hostomel and press their advance. Fierce battles raged around the urban areas for a few weeks and while the news reached the public the situation on the ground was rapidly changing.
“35 enemy helicopters were coming from the Reservoir’s side to us. We went into combat with them and as a result successfully took down a Ka-52 Alligator helicopter.
Due to the combat, AN-225 Airplane was damaged, and the Ruslan airplane’s hanger on the right side is damaged as well. On the runway’s left side there is one more attack helicopter found its last refuge. Our soldiers helped him out with landing, and a Mi-24 combat helicopter as well. You can see lots of debris on runway they all belong to attack helicopters of the Russian Federation.
“I was alerted and called to duty. I came to the military unit and a cruise missile hit our drill square and that was a starting point for us. We’ve got equipped and advanced to the Airfield to check outposts, determine the operations for the outposts, establishing the protocols for different scenarios, and after that we returned to our unit. It was around 1030 am when first helicopters flew in.”
During the battle, the hangar housing the world’s largest aircraft the unique AN-225 Mriya was destroyed. The neighboring hangar which sheltered the AN-124 Ruslan also suffered damage from Russian unguided aviation missiles.
The core of the tactical group of Guardsmen consisted of conscripts, young but professionally trained soldiers within the National Guard’s Hostomel Brigade. Using towed anti-aircraft guns and MANPADS, the Guardsman shot down six Russian helicopters.
“My conscripts, Anti-Aircraft Gunners, had spotted an enemy helicopter, opened fire and shot it down within approximately 10-15 seconds, and the main forces moved in.
Ka-52 and two other aircraft, a Su-24 and Su-25, were covering the helicopters. They were approaching, then striking, and moving back beyond the horizon. And then the Ka-52 helicopters were clearing the landing zone for the Airborne.
So the enemy were approaching to deploy their Air Assault forces, and they were disembarking and their task was to seize the landing Zone on the air field, in order to bring in the main forces later on, specifically the El-76 aircraft which were supposed to land here and deploy with the main forces.
It was probably around one Brigade or even more, and it includes heavy equipment forces and resources to continue the advance directly towards the capital.
We entered into combat and approximately six helicopters were destroyed. Three were irreparably damaged and three made emergency landings. One landed in the field because it couldn’t continue to fight as it was shot down, and two more helicopters were also forced to land because they could no longer continue the battle. We held the defense until we ran out of MANPADS then the unit Commander ordered the withdrawal of personnel from the location to minimize losses.”
In addition to the National Guard, units of other military formations and Special Forces were involved in the airport defense. The Guardsmen together with the armed forces units used artillery fire to eliminate the enemy positions and strongholds. They also conducted a massive artillery strike on the airport’s runway that prevented the enemy from landing military transport planes El-76 with heavy equipment and personnel by damaging the runway with artillery fire.
“The 95th Brigade, our Paratroopers, entered the battle with their helicopters using UARs, they destroyed their equipment and manpower. They held them off for several days but eventually they were also forced to retreat.
Then the “Kadyrovites” Chechen Special Forces arrived here and recorded their “Tick Tock” videos, but in the evening our SOF eliminated them. Hostomel was like a relay, and it changed hands over the course of about ten days and when the Russians massively entered here, Hostomel fell under their occupation.”
Mi-24: “This is one of the helicopters that took part in the attack on February 21st. This one has attacked the airport and our Brigade. As you can see it was shot down by our anti-aircraft system, and as you can see it was somewhat disposed of, along with the crew. Obviously there was a very high temperature, take a look, everything melted except for massive metal structures.
This is the Invincible renowned Ka-52 Alligator, which also took part in the assault town on Hostomel airport and fought our unit. It just so happened that the Invincible super strong, no analogs in the world, helicopter was shut down by MANPADS. Well based in practical experience their impenetrable armor didn’t protect their pilots and their renowned helicopter.
I guess the temperatures here reached over a thousand degrees and it burned to crisp. Three Mi-8 helicopters with paratroopers, two Ka-52s and one Mi-24. Our soldiers landed all of them.”
The Battle for Hostomel Airport significantly slowed down the advance of the Russian forces in the first hours of the battle, while Ukrainian forces moved into the field towards the probable axis of a Russian advanced, and artillery was set in defensive positions outside the capital. The defense of Hostomel Airport became a key episode in the defense of Kiev. Ukrainian Defenders held back the enemy’s pressure, thereby thwarting the enemy’s plan to swiftly capture the capital of Ukraine. The first hours of the battle for the airport in hostile determined the course of a successful defensive Kiev.
The Battle of Hostomel was a crucial engagement during the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 where the Ukrainian Field Artillery played a pivotal role in defending the Kyiv region, particularly around the Hostomel area. With the deployment of advanced artillery systems such as the Pion self-propelled howitzer, the Ukrainian forces effectively countered Russian advancements, neutralized enemy artillery, and inflicted significant damage on enemy assets. The integration of aerial reconnaissance capabilities, including drones, proved instrumental in improving target accuracy and minimizing ammunition expenditure. While the battle showcased the determination and preparedness of the Ukrainian military, it also revealed shortcomings in certain areas, such as the need for improved air defense and electronic warfare capabilities. The conflict highlighted the long-standing tensions between Ukraine and Russia, underscoring the importance of diplomatic negotiations to reach a resolution that respects territorial integrity and international borders.
From a field artillery perspective, this portion of the case study analyzes the strategies and equipment used by the Ukrainian forces in countering the Russian offensive, the impact of aerial reconnaissance capabilities, and the challenges faced during the conflict.
Ukrainian Field Artillery and Key Engagements:
The Ukrainian Field Artillery played a critical role in defending the Kyiv region, including the Hostomel area, during the invasion. The utilization of advanced artillery systems such as the Pion self-propelled howitzer proved instrumental in neutralizing enemy forces. These powerful artillery units were equipped to engage targets at long ranges and deliver accurate strikes on enemy positions.
Aerial Reconnaissance and Enhanced Target Accuracy:
A notable development during the battle was the integration of aerial reconnaissance capabilities into the field artillery operations. The use of drones, including Mavic quadcopters and other airplane-type UAVs, provided real-time intelligence, enabling precise target identification and minimizing ammunition wastage. This advancement significantly improved the overall effectiveness of field artillery operations in the Kyiv region.
Shortcomings and Challenges:
While the Ukrainian Field Artillery demonstrated resilience and efficiency, there were notable shortcomings during the conflict. The lack of dedicated man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) and electronic warfare capabilities raised concerns about the vulnerability of Ukrainian forces to enemy air threats and electronic attacks.
Long-Term Preparations by Russia and Geopolitical Considerations:
The explosions at Ukrainian military warehouses and the targeted sabotage against Ukraine’s Armed Forces underscored Russia’s long-term preparations for the offensive. These acts were part of a geopolitical strategy to maintain a buffer zone around its borders and exert influence over neighboring countries.
Importance of Societal Awareness and Responsibility:
The conflict highlighted the importance of societal awareness and responsible governance. The need for society to be informed and engaged in the political process was evident, and leaders were urged to act in the best interest of the nation to prevent future mistakes.
The Battle of Hostomel provided valuable insights into the strategic significance of field artillery in countering the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The effective use of advanced artillery systems, combined with aerial reconnaissance capabilities, showcased the preparedness and determination of the Ukrainian military. However, the conflict also revealed areas that require improvement, such as air defense and electronic warfare. As the conflict continues, diplomatic negotiations remain vital in reaching a resolution that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The battle has underlined the long-standing tensions between Ukraine and Russia, underscoring the importance of international diplomacy and cooperation in resolving the crisis.
Here is a step-by-step outline of the sequence of events, people, locations, dates, and actions related to the Ukrainian Field Artillery’s impact on the Battle of Hostomel in 2022 and its influence on the early stages of the war: This is based on multiple reports including the Pravda.com.ua interview with Colonel Oleh Shevchuk, the commander of the 43rd Artillery Brigade, and Colonel Serhiy Ogerenko, the brigade’s chief of staff.
1. Preparation for the Battle of Kyiv
– Hostomel was among the first main battles of the Ukrainian 43rd Artillery Brigade during the full-scale invasion, and Colonel Oleh explains the unit’s role during the overall battle for Kyiv.
– The brigade received the task on February 24 and started moving the heavy artillery, 2S7 Pion self-propelled 203mm cannons, toward designated areas, including Peremohy Avenue in Kyiv.
– The brigade blocked Kyiv from both sides, with two Pion batteries moving toward Troyeschyna and one toward Sviatoshyn.
– Targets included Hostomel, the airport, the airborne troops, and other enemy positions, and the brigade worked day and night.
2. Training and Deployment
– Before the invasion, the brigade had a period of training in the Kyiv region to replace other units in the east.
– The soldiers of the brigade were young, with half of them being conscripts aged 21-22.
– The artillery personnel moved out on their vehicles, took up firing positions, and engaged in routine firing operations day and night.
3. Opening Fires
– The brigade’s division moved out during the night of February 24 to avoid being noticed, and they started working on February 25.
– The 43rd Artillery Brigade was among the first artillery units defending Kyiv during the invasion.
4. Civilian Support and Use of Drones
– Civilians played a crucial role in supporting the brigade’s operations.
– Civilians with Mavicams (drones used for filming weddings and travels) helped adjust the artillery fire by providing real-time video footage through 4G and WhatsApp communication.
– The civilians acted as drone coordinators, observing enemy movements and relaying information to the artillery.
“That’s why we needed ‘eyes,'” Ogerenko said. “We called civilians and asked, ‘Do you see this section of the road? If a shell hits in a minute and a half, can you tell us at least roughly where it exploded?’ Then the person would describe the place of the explosion, and we would open a Google map and see, yes, there is such a place behind the vegetable gardens.”
5. Targeting Moving Columns
– The brigade faced the challenge of hitting moving targets.
– Civilians assisted by reporting the locations of explosions after a shell hit, enabling the artillery to adjust its fire more accurately.
– Coordination with locals allowed the brigade to gather real-time intelligence on enemy movements and positions.
6. Support from Local Population
– The support from the local population varied across different regions.
– In the Kyiv region, the brigade received valuable assistance from civilians who were willing to help and provide information.
– However, in regions like Donetsk and Kharkiv, the lack of communication and intimidation from the occupying forces hindered civilian support.
Shevchuk recounted how “one guy from a gas station even gave us access to his camera.” Rather than explain the situation to Ukrainian gunners, the owner told them, “‘here’s the password. See for yourself,'” Shevchuk recalled. “That’s how we saw our first live target — a column of Chechens near Novyi Bykiv [37 miles from Kyiv] heading towards Kyiv. So we ‘met’ them three kilometers [1.9 miles] further.”
7. Establishment of Communication and Intelligence Systems
– Lessons learned during Hostomel helped during the Kharkiv operation, the military had already established communication, intelligence, and interaction systems, improving overall coordination.
The Ukrainian Field Artillery, represented by the 43rd Artillery Brigade, played a significant role in defending Kyiv and in the Battle of Hostomel during the full-scale invasion. They used Pion self-propelled 203mm cannons to block key areas and engaged in successful operations, hitting moving targets with the help of civilian coordinators and real-time intelligence. However, civilian support varied in different regions, and the establishment of communication and intelligence systems improved coordination as the war progressed. The role of heavy artillery like the 43rd Artillery Brigade proved vital in the early stages of the war in Ukraine.
1. Aerial Reconnaissance and Surveillance
– The Ukrainians effectively used of aerial reconnaissance in the brigade’s operations.
– Colonel Oleh explains that they initially relied on other units’ aerial reconnaissance before February 24, 2022.
– However, after the full-scale invasion, the brigade received its own aerial reconnaissance assets in July, which included helicopter and airplane-type UAVs.
2. Importance of Target Visibility and Precision
– Highlights the significance of target visibility for effective artillery operations.
– Colonel Oleh emphasizes that if the artillery crew cannot see the target, the effectiveness of their shooting is significantly reduced.
– The brigade prioritizes accuracy over the quantity of ammunition used, aiming to achieve their objectives with minimal resources.
3. Use of Mavic Drones
– The Colonel discussed the use of Mavic drones, which were durable and lasted approximately a month for the brigade.
– The infantry, however, had Mavic drones that lasted only half a day due to different usage patterns.
4. Destroying Russian Vehicles in Bucha
– The brigade’s involvement in destroying a large burned column of Russian vehicles on Vokzalna Street in Bucha.
– Colonel Oleh did not witness the event firsthand but learned about it later from the media.
5. Personal Visit to a Target Site
– Colonel Oleh shares his experience of visiting a target site in Kozarovychi, where the brigade had been operating.
– At first, he faced some resistance from the guards but eventually gained access.
– A guard from Luhansk revealed that the Russians were in the warehouse they had targeted, and they had seen them thanks to the Special Forces (SSO) personnel.
– The Russians later moved to a warehouse of household appliances and used large plasma TVs to fill the blown-out window openings.
6. Humor amidst the Operations
– The Colonel concludes with a moment of humor shared by the guards and Colonel Oleh when they discovered the Russians’ unconventional use of large plasma TVs to cover the damaged window openings.
The analysis provides valuable insights into the use of aerial reconnaissance, the importance of target visibility and precision in artillery operations, and the brigade’s involvement in significant engagements during the Battle of Kyiv. It also portrays the cooperation and coordination between military personnel and civilians, highlighting the crucial role of drones and surveillance in the success of the Ukrainian Field Artillery during the early stages of the war in Ukraine.
7. Targeting Russian Equipment
– The interview discusses some of the significant targets engaged by the brigade in the Kyiv region.
– The brigade targeted enemy equipment, including Soncepyoks (a type of self-propelled artillery), Pantsyrs (anti-aircraft missile systems), and T-90 tanks.
– They also targeted electronic warfare stations, control points, and refueling stations, witnessing the destruction of enemy artillery and vehicles.
8. Estimated Number of Enemy Equipment Destroyed
– Colonel Oleh estimates that the brigade destroyed about 2500 pieces of enemy equipment in the Kyiv region.
– He mentions that the number could be higher, but counting became less interesting as the scale of operations and successes grew.
9. Lack of Pions in Russian Convoys
– Colonel Oleh clarifies that they did not encounter Pions in the Russian convoys heading to Kyiv.
– The Russian forces primarily used 2S19s, which they found to be quite good.
10. Assessment of the Russian Army and Wagner Group
– The Colonel assessed the artillery capabilities of the Russian regular army and the Wagner Group.
– Wagner Group is described as lacking proper artillery training, and some members are viewed as convicts given the opportunity to prove their usefulness.
– The Russian regular troops are acknowledged to have received similar training as Ukrainian forces but are perceived as stagnant, lacking progress and development.
11. Russian Artillery Tactics and Reconnaissance
– The Russian artillery is noted for its heavy bombardments, often targeting large areas without specific adjustments.
– Their use of drones, particularly Orlan UAVs, increased in the second half of 2022.
– They employed artillery reconnaissance and counter-battery warfare stations, though many were destroyed by Ukrainian artillery and HARM anti-radar missiles.
12. Russian Personnel Training and Cooperation
– The Russian personnel are observed to be well-trained in city assault operations.
– Cooperation and support between different infantry units are acknowledged as strengths in their operations.
13. Perspective on Russian Military Personnel
– Colonel Oleh emphasizes that Russian military personnel are essentially mobilized individuals like Ukrainian soldiers.
– He rejects the derogatory term “chmobiks” and highlights that they are regular people, some of whom are conscripted and others who willingly join the ranks.
14. Personal Reflections and Family Connections
– The interview touches on Colonel Oleh’s background, mentioning that he was born in Russia, and his father served in the Soviet Union.
– The complex ties with Russia and personal experiences create mixed feelings about fighting against them.
15. Military Oath
– Colonel Oleh reveals that he took his military oath in 1993, emphasizing his commitment to his role as a soldier and the duty to defend Ukraine.
The interview provides further insights into the brigade’s operations, including the targeting of specific enemy equipment, the assessment of the Russian army and the Wagner Group, and the use of reconnaissance and surveillance in their operations. Colonel Oleh’s reflections on family connections and the complexity of the conflict add a personal touch to the interview, highlighting the human aspect of the war.
16. The Soviet and Independent Military Personnel
– Colonel Oleh reflects on the difference between military personnel who served during the Soviet era and those who served in the independent Ukrainian army.
– He points out that the way of thinking and attitude can vary, but he does not consider it a serious distinction.
17. Perception of the Military in Society
– When discussing whether the military is admired and privileged in society, Colonel Oleh mentions that it depends on one’s environment and perspective.
– He expresses concern about negative behaviors by some military personnel, such as corruption and misconduct, and believes that the positive image of the military should be earned.
18. Readiness of the Ukrainian Army on February 24, 2022
– Colonel Oleh asserts that the Ukrainian army was ready to respond to the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022.
– Although there might have been a shortage of certain personnel, the army as a structure was prepared to face the offensive.
19. Return of “Pions” and new Panzergaubitzes
– Colonel Oleh explains that the Pions were decommissioned in the early 2000s but were brought back into service during the Russo-Ukrainian War.
– The newer Panzergaubitzes (German 155mm self-propelled artillery systems) are highly regarded for their efficiency, computerization, and range of ammunition.
20. Replacement of the Pions
– When discussing the future replacement of the Pions, Colonel Oleh mentions that other artillery systems like Panzergaubitzes, Krabs, or Caesars can easily outperform the Pions.
– He also notes that some ammunition provided by Western partners has sufficient range and power to fulfill the tasks.
21. Weapons Shortages
– Colonel Oleh mentions that the brigade lacks electronic warfare and tactical-level air defense systems.
– He points out that Ukraine has other types of howitzers but emphasizes the need for tactical air defense capabilities.
22. Targeted Sabotage in the Past
– Colonel Oleh acknowledges that there were targeted sabotages against Ukraine’s Armed Forces, even before the 2014 events.
– He suggests that some of these actions were orchestrated with the help of people in power and proxies from Russia.
He provides further insights into the readiness of the Ukrainian army on February 24, 2022, and the equipment they use, including the Pions and Panzergaubitzes. The discussion on targeted sabotages highlights the complexity of the conflict and the involvement of external forces. Colonel Oleh’s frank opinions and observations add depth to the interview, giving readers a glimpse into the challenges and realities faced by the Ukrainian military during the ongoing conflict.
The final part of the interview delves into the long-term preparations by Russia for an offensive against Ukraine and discusses the need for societal awareness and responsibility in preventing mistakes in the future. It also addresses the scenarios for ending the war and the importance of negotiations.
23. Long-Term Preparations by Russia
– Colonel Oleh asserts that the explosions at the warehouses were part of a well-planned engineering development and confirms that Russia had been preparing for an offensive against Ukraine since the early 2000s.
– He suggests that Russia’s geopolitical interests include maintaining a buffer around its borders to distract and control its population.
24. Preventing Mistakes in the Future
– Colonel Oleh emphasizes the importance of learning from history to prevent mistakes in the future. He advises society to read books and understand the consequences of decisions made by leaders and governments.
– He also emphasizes the need for individuals to do their jobs well to contribute positively to society.
25. Scenarios for the End of the War
– Colonel Oleh states that all wars end at the negotiating table, where the outcome depends on the agreements reached by the parties involved.
– He considers a complete victory to be the destruction of the system that exists in Russia, as the current situation represents a time bomb for Ukraine.
26. Territorial Compromises
– Both officers agree that there can be no territorial compromises in the negotiations. They argue that the fixed borders recognized by the international community should be respected, and the people of Ukraine would not accept any territorial concessions. They are aware of shifts to broader geopolitical considerations, the importance of societal awareness, and the potential outcomes of the ongoing conflict. The interviewees’ perspective emphasizes the need for vigilance and unity within Ukrainian society to safeguard the nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity during these challenging times.
Here is a translation of an interview by Pravda.com.ua with the commander of the 43rd Artillery Brigade, Colonel Oleh Shevchuk. The Brigade’s chief of staff, Colonel Serhiy Ogerenko, also participated in the discussion (his answers are marked with S).
This interview opens many insights about the beginning of the war, particularly about the role of heavy artillery in Hostomel landing and destroyed tank columns around Kyiv. Besides, the interview is about the development of the Ukrainian army, the battles of 2014-2015, the comparison of different artillery systems, and the future of the war.
(Original article in Ukrainian by Olha Kyrylenko and Dmytro Larin (Pravda.ua), Translation by @VolodyaTretyak (Twitter))
(Interviewer): Mr. Oleh, one of the main battles of your brigade during the full-scale invasion was the battle for Kyiv. Could you tell us how it started? How did your Pions [Soviet-made self-propelled 203mm cannon] get to Troyeschyna?
(Oleh): We received the task [ on February 24], started the vehicles, and left. We marched 120 or 140 kilometers to designated areas, including Peremohy Avenue in Kyiv. There was no panic, but it was unusual, without a trawl, on their own, on a 47-ton gun – this was, of course, serious. You had to see it!
Two 2S7 Pion batteries moved toward Troyeschyna and one in the direction of Sviatoshyn. So we blocked Kyiv from both sides. Then came the targets: Gostomel, the airport, the airborne troops, and everything else. So we worked day and night.
(I): The soldiers of your brigade told us that before the invasion, they had been training in the Kyiv region.
(O): Yes, we did have a period of training, one of the divisions was trained in the Kyiv region to replace those performing tasks here in the east.
They were young guys, half of them conscripts, 21-22 years old. And so these Cossacks received orders, moved out on their vehicles, marched, and took up firing positions. And then the usual routine work: they got the target, aimed, loaded, fired, unloaded ammunition, loaded again, aimed, fired. I slept while standing and ate while standing.
(I): When did you open fire for the first time?
(O): Since there was rocket fire throughout the country on the 24th, our division moved out the next night to avoid being noticed, and on February 25, we started working.
(I): Were you the first artillery to defend Kyiv?
(O): I think so. Later, other brigades, including infantry, joined in. We established cooperation and started exchanging intelligence.
Civilians helped with drones. They called through messengers: “I can work today.” “Who are you?” “Marina, Dasha gave me your number.” Yes, Maryna and Dasha (these girls were UAV coordinators). “Okay, fly there; we’ll see what’s going on. ”
And it all started with these Mavics, now called “wedding” drones.
(I): So the civilians who used Mavicams to film weddings and travels were adjusting the artillery?
(O): They provided the picture. 4G, WhatsApp, a video call – the cameraman picked up, saw something, took off his phone, and said: “Look what I have.” I looked at it and said: “Hold it. We’re going to shoot now”. It was convenient.
And it was very good that there was a connection in the Kyiv region. It helped us out a lot.
Another example: we know the enemy is coming to a certain village, but we don’t know where exactly. We open a Google map, see a store, see its phone number, and dial it: “Good evening, we are from Ukraine! “Do you have any Katsaps in the village?” “Yes.” “Where?” “Behind Grandma Hanna’s house.” “What house does Grandma Hanna have?” “Well, everyone knows her!” So you talk to people a little bit and realize where everything is.
One guy from a gas station even gave us access to his camera. He said: “What am I going to explain to you? Here’s the password. See for yourself.” That’s how we saw our first “live” target – a column of Chechens near Novyi Bykiv [Chernihiv region, 60 kilometers from Kyiv], heading towards Kyiv. So we “met” them three kilometers further.
(I): How realistic is it to hit a moving target?
(O): For a firing battery, there is no difference, but artillery luck also works here. If you calculated everything correctly – the enemy’s speed of movement, the flight time of the shell – then the result will be fire, sparks, and smoke. That is, it is what it should be.
(I): So you managed to hit a moving column the first time?
(Serhiy): Not always. That’s why we needed “eyes”. We also called civilians and asked: “Do you see this section of the road?” “I do.” “If a shell hits in a minute and a half, can you tell us at least roughly where it exploded?” “I can. Then the person would describe the place of the explosion, and we would open a Google map and see: yes, there is such a place behind the vegetable gardens.
(O): We had an 18-year-old boy in Motyzhyn whom we reached through the store’s phone number on Google map and said: “I don’t believe you.” So we turned on the video link, showed him our ID, uniform, and chevron, and he said: “I don’t believe you”.
Then we convinced him and worked closely together for about half a month while fighting in Motyzhyn. And every local in the village knows someone else, and that person knows someone else, so there are already people passing on information. So at first, I called from my number, and then we got a separate phone, and then it was not enough, so we got a second one.
Sometime in the fall, I called this guy from Motyzhyn and said: “Come, let’s get acquainted.”
(I): The Russians didn’t track him down during the occupation?
(O): No, and that’s very good.
(S): We lost contact with many people, and some said: “That’s it, I’m turning off my phone, deleting all my contacts. There are Russians in the next house.” Some people immediately said: “I’m scared, don’t ask me any questions.” But people called us from everywhere.
(I): Did you encounter the same kind of support from the local population in other regions where you worked, such as Kharkiv and Donetsk?
(O): In Donetsk and Kharkiv regions, we did not, but there are objective reasons for this: lack of communication and intimidation of the locals.
Not everyone is leaving these regions. Only those who believe that our state is here, on the controlled territory. Those who stay, unfortunately, either have nowhere to go or they meet [Russians] later. They say that their saviors have come, whom they have been waiting for. This is not a secret.
So you don’t know who to work with here. Although recently, there was information from the occupied territories about unloading equipment at the stations.
People are afraid, and you can understand them – you live once and want to live. That’s why there are other ways to collect information now: the eVorog system and analytical centers. And it all works – the data comes in a processed form, which is hard work.
(S): Look, during the Kharkiv operation, communication, intelligence, and interaction systems were already established. This did not exist in the first days of the war. Initially, military communications were not established at all, and all communication was via messengers.
(I): Among the targets you worked on in the Kyiv region, you mentioned Gostomel and the attempted Russian landing. Can you tell us how it looked from your side? How did you see it?
(O): I didn’t see it – the National Guard, which was at the airfield, did. In most cases, I see a cross on the map – the target number, the nature, and the consumption of ammunition.
From what we saw, it was Russian paratroopers in Kozarovychi [20 kilometers north of Kyiv]. This was the first broadcast not brought to us by civilians but by our military scouts, the Special Forces.
That is, we knew where we were working, how many, and what kind of losses the enemy suffered, but we did not know how it physically happened. Now we can see every shot: everywhere we work, thanks to the entire Armed Forces system, command, surveillance, copters, including the people who buy them, we can see every shot.
(I): Before February 24, 2022, did your brigade have aerial reconnaissance men?
(I): When did you get them?
(O): Since February 24, we have been working with other people’s aerial reconnaissance men, and our own appeared in July. People went for training, and now we have enough copters and “airplanes” [airplane-type UAVs].
(I): Before the full-scale invasion, did your brigade not need aerial reconnaissance?
(O): There was always a need, but the application was different. The plan was as follows: the scouts would find the target, dictate its coordinates to us, and we would work on it, and that was it. But the practice has shown the following: if the shooter does not see his target, the effectiveness of this shooting is reduced by several times.
In addition, we do not rely on the number of ammunition but on accuracy. So why throw away 10-20 shells when you can use 3?
(I): How long does one Mavic last?
(O): For us – about a month, in the infantry – half a day. But it depends on how you use it because Mavic drones now perform different functions. Our quadcopters are generally more resilient than our “birds” [airplane-type UAVs].
(I): You say that you did not see your Pions knocking out the Russian troops from Gostomel. And what about the large burned column of Russian vehicles on Vokzalna Street in Bucha? This was also your work.
(O): I only know that there was such a target, but I did not see it with my own eyes, I saw it later, in the media.
But I went to see one of our results in person, in Kozarovychi. At first, they didn’t let me in, even though I was in uniform and driving a service car. A woman who was a security guard there said: “Hey, where are you going?” and I told her: “I’m the person who made a mess here,” and she said: “Oh, come in! Do you want some tea?”
There was also a man from the Luhansk region among the guards who told us that there were Russians in the warehouse we were shooting at-we saw them, thanks to the SSO guys.
So after the first raid, they moved to a warehouse of household appliances, and the windows there were blown out – and it was cold, it was March. So the Russians took 60-inch plasma TVs and filled the window openings with them. The guards and I had a good laugh.
(I): What was your “fattest” target in the Kyiv region?
(O): I don’t even know. We were catching Soncepyoks and Pantsyrs, and everyone wanted to kill T-90s. Electronic warfare stations, control points, refueling stations – once you shot, you watched it burn for half the night.
There was so much enemy artillery that we were really hunting for it. Once a unit fired somewhere, that was it: we sent a drone there, caught it, and chased it.
(S): There is a famous video of a tank column of the 90th Tank Regiment entering Brovary, and we hit it in the village and then at the exit from the village. Not only was our unit involved, but all the artillery could reach the target, so we destroyed almost the entire tank regiment.
And they were driving brazenly: four in a column on the highway.
(I): How many pieces of equipment did you burn in the Kyiv region?
(O): It’s impossible to calculate exactly, but based on what we saw and recorded in the combat log, it was about 2500, maybe more. At first, we were counting, but then it became uninteresting. There are targets like four self-propelled guns – you shoot at one, and all of them burn. Even when this epic with the Kyiv region was over, and the enemy started to retreat, we were “seeing them off” with our drone flying after them. That is, they were driving, blowing up bridges behind them, and we were filling them with a shell at every intersection to make them go faster [smiles].
Later, when we realized they had already left, we began to collect abandoned equipment in the forests – and there was a lot of it! As an artilleryman, I am interested in artillery: I remember where we fired and sent people to search for it. Then I get a report in the form of a selfie: I’m here, there are burnt out self-propelled guns, nothing useful. Not a single Kamaz, nothing.
(I): Were there any Pions in these Russian convoys to Kyiv?
(O): No, I did not see any Pions in the Kyiv direction. There were a lot of 2S19s [Soviet 152-mm self-propelled artillery systems], and they were quite good. Their work could even be shown as an example – two shots, rolling in the other direction, that is, they were not sitting there, believe me.
Assessment of the enemy, “Sovietness” in the army, and readiness of the Armed Forces for February 24
(I): How do you generally assess the enemy’s artillery during a full-scale invasion – the regular Russian army and the Wagnerites?
(O): Wagner’s men have no artillery training. In the normal sense, they are “convicts”. Russia has a double task here: to get rid of the mouths sitting in prison and eating up the budget but to get rid of them with benefits. They can show their maximum usefulness here.
As for the Wagnerians themselves, they are talking ear to ear: go, we’ll let you out in six months if you live. They also have professionals who joined the mobilization of prisoners, but I have never met them.
(I): Then what can you say about the artillery training of the Russian regular troops?
(O): We studied in the same schools, with the same documents. Today, those who think survive, not those who do what they have been taught. You must be cunning, move, develop, and do something new. And we, at least the artillerymen, are doing it.
Western weapons allow us to disperse and have a longer range.
(I): Do I understand correctly that the Russian army lacks development and progress despite its superiority in human and technical resources?
(O): Yes, they are stagnant, to put it in a nutshell. Attempts to modernize something there are coming to an end…
(S): Some good equipment exists, such as electronic warfare equipment and unmanned aerial vehicles. I don’t know whether they have produced their Orlan since 2014 or 2015, but it flies daily. They have operators who are trained, skillful, and work in pairs. That is, their capabilities cannot be underestimated in any way.
As for the artillery, they mostly shoot at squares. Last summer, it was like this: evening starts, and they go – every forest belt, grove, ravine, where there are at least some plantings, regardless of whether there are people there, everything was shot at. They had no shortage of ammunition.
But there is another point here: the barrel’s service life, which we also experienced. At first it was “bang, bang, bang,” and then it went wherever it hit. We had guns where we had to replace the barrel twice.
As for the reconnaissance equipment: if we have been trying to hit targets with adjustments since the Kyiv campaign, they did not bother with this in the Kyiv region, and even more so here in the east. So they shot the normalized amount of ammunition, and that was it.
Then, somewhere in the second half of 2022, they also began to use drones, the same Mavic widely. Before that, their Orlans was flying in and adjusting the artillery. Stations for artillery reconnaissance and counter-battery warfare were and are still widely used.
Clearly, many of them were destroyed by our artillery and HARM anti-radar missiles supplied by our partners. But they still have these stations.
Also, according to my observations, their personnel, unlike ours, are trained in assault operations in the city. This applies to combined arms infantry units. In these matters, they have cooperation and support.
(I): How do you feel about the fact that the Russian military is often called “chmobiks” and ridiculed in every possible way?
(O): Why “chmobiks”? They are mobilized people like ours – absolutely the same. They have exactly the same initial training – none, I would say – and then they learn. The only difference is that the majority of our personnel, the majority, let’s say, mobilizes on their own. They realize that someone has broken into their home.
And they [Russians] were driven there, although there are also people who came on their own.
That is, one is defending his country, and the other has come and for some reason believes that he is defending his own. It’s a repeat of Afghanistan, where they also defended their country, and Syria. Is this what Russia was defending in Syria? Whom was it defending?
(I): Before the interview, Mr. Oleh, you told us that you were born in Russia and your father served in the Soviet Union. Have you ever thought that you would have to fight against Russia?
(O): I don’t know. On the one hand, I’m a military man – I know what kind of work I do, and what I’m needed for. I’ve been in the army for almost 30 years. I took an oath, I know what that oath is for. And Russia will be an enemy or some other state… So we have an enemy, and we are fighting with it.
And my father served in Russia – well, he did, I was born there, and my sister was born there. Many of us have relatives there-some have remained family, and some have already lost contact. Could I have imagined that we would be at war with Russia – no, probably not, but maybe yes. There is no answer.
– In what year did you take the military oath?
(O): У 1993.
Did you notice or feel any changes in the army then – how Soviet soldiers were becoming Ukrainian? What was happening in their thoughts and behavior?
(O): I didn’t think about it at the time, and it was a long time ago.
– Do you feel a difference between the military who joined the army in the USSR and those who joined in the times of independence?
(O): I don’t even know how to distinguish between them. In terms of their way of thinking, it’s not serious.
(S): It is quite easy to distinguish them. For example, there is a military town with six houses where the military, former military, or their relatives live. You walk around this town, and there are pensioners, officers of those times, and you hear: this is Ukraine, and in the Soviet Union, it was like this, sausage for 2.20, and now everything is so bad.
And when you start talking to them: “Why didn’t you go to Russia in 1991, 1992, 1993?” they have no answer.
(O): You know, the important thing here is not that “everything is bad in Ukraine, but it was good in the USSR,” but that they were 20 years old. They were not in pain, and the sun was shining. They went to work, and they fell in love. And today, they are in pain, itching, not given a pension, and paying high rent.
Someday we will also tell our children: “But it was good once,” and they will answer: “No, dad, it’s good now.” That is, it’s not about “soviet” upbringing. Although, of course, some still have a portrait of Lenin hanging in their homes.
I don’t know what a “soviet” general looks like. Any person in their position should do everything in their power, maximizing efficiency. And if people don’t do this, can they be called a “Soviet”? We have enough people born during the period of independence and sabotage work.
“Sovietizatism” – maybe ist a “illness “to do things about enough of what is required . Someone fights it, and someone gets sicker.
(I): According to your observations, has the Ukrainian army changed since February 24, 2022?
(O): Changes in the Ukrainian army began in 2014. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but the mechanism was launched – there were movements for the better. But I think it’s not the right time now, we need to fulfill another task and then make reforms. Now we need to use all available resources.
(I): Do you feel that the military has become a privileged group in society? That everyone admires you?
(S): To feel this, you need to be in society, you know?
(O): I admire the Chief of Staff, he admires me, and everything is fine [laughs]. When you enter a different environment, you see that attitudes change, which is good.
At the same time, when you see sins on our part, for example, “avatars” [drinkers in the army] at bus stops, you want to kill them. Some people can even afford a corruption scandal.
This is unacceptable. Someone earns a positive image for the Armed Forces, and someone…
We are just people doing our job. During the coronavirus, people admired doctors, and now they admire the military. Will we start respecting plumbers when the Dnipro dries up? What kind of people are we? Why do we need something to hit us on the head to understand something?
In 5-6 years, students of medical schools and medical institutes will start graduating, and then we will remember them.
(S): Yes, those who studied online [both laugh].
(I): You say that changes in the Ukrainian army began in 2014. A year ago, on February 24, when the first missiles flew into Ukraine, was the Ukrainian army ready to “meet” the Russian army and fight back?
(O): Yes, definitely, yes. Of course, there was a lack of ordinary soldiers, mechanics, loaders, and riflemen, but the army itself as a structure was ready for this. We didn’t have the state of “ahh, what to do?”. The offensive was a matter of time.
(I): At the beginning of the interview, you mentioned that on February 24, one of your divisions was here in the east?
(S): Yes, one battery was operating in the Luhansk region, in the Sievierodonetsk direction, and two batteries were working in the Donetsk region, closer to Mariupol and closer to Donetsk.
(O): Ours were stationed all along the line. Like all units, we were scattered. Our area of responsibility started in the Zhytomyr region and stretched across the east and south to Mykolaiv.
In April, our westernmost battery was in Volyn, and our southernmost battery was behind Mykolaiv. Imagine this “horseshoe” along the state border.
They had their combat mission, and from the beginning of February 24, they received a command, moved to their positions, and performed their tasks. They destroyed infantry and equipment.
(I): Mr. Oleh, who was the person who told you in person or by phone that the war had started?
(O): There was a big bang at the Boryspil airport, I heard it, and in 7 minutes, I was already there. Everyone was running. Who was the person who told me… the duty officer, probably.
(S): At 5:10, we heard the first explosions. At about 7:45, one of the Kalibr missiles flew directly over the military unit toward Brovary. There was no need to say anything. Everyone understood that sooner or later, it would start. Everyone was preparing.
(O): As military men, we understand how wars begin. It’s always the same: the destruction of air defense, landing, and passage of enemy columns. There will be nothing new, and all wars are fought like this.
Of course, I couldn’t imagine how it would be possible to launch missiles at another country, at peaceful cities. How disconnected from reality do you have to be to give this command, and how disconnected to press a button to execute it?
I still can’t understand how the Russian military executes these commands, how they launch missiles from these MiGs, knowing where they will go. They do know! They see what coordinates are entered there.
A soldier with an assault rifle knows where he is going, an artilleryman knows, a tanker knows, and a pilot knows. How can you shoot at a shopping center where there is nothing military? Well, to hell with it. Shoot at an army base, at a military target.
Return of “Pions” to service, operation of “Panzergaubits”, explosions in warehouses and the scenario of the end of the war
(I): Mr. Oleh, a few questions about the weapons you work with. What is your ammunition supply – do you have enough to fire the Pion?
(O): Each projectile will find its target. We have enough to shoot with. Of course, we would like to have more shells, but we have what we have. Of course, we don’t spend as much in the east as we did in the Kyiv region.
(I): What was your consumption of shells in the Kyiv region?
(S): It was up to 600 shells per division, and a division is 12 guns [about 50 shells per day per gun]. The ammunition of one gun is 40 rounds, so we were shooting from half to one round per gun on average.
(O): It seems that the loading of the ammunition never stopped at all. The work was frantic.
(I): Is the number of daily shells per gun in the Donetsk region much lower now?
(O): There were times when it was higher.
(S): But you have to understand that the density of artillery in the Kyiv and Donetsk regions differs significantly. In the Kyiv region, you could count the guns on one hand.
(I): In Ukraine, the Peonies were written off for some time. How did they come back into service?
(S): In the early 2000s, in 2002, I think, they were decommissioned by the Armed Forces, handed over to the bases, and stored there until 2014.
In 2014, when the ATO began and it was realized that there was a need for such powerful artillery systems, it was decided to remove them from storage and bring them into a combat-ready state. And so it was decided to form our brigade.
(O): In general, this gun was created to deliver a nuclear warhead to the target. And then disarmament began. People started cutting up ammunition, handing over everything, giving it away, the conventions on non-use, and the need for Peonies also fell. Although 152-mm howitzers deliver the same ammunition to the target.
Another thing is that we, as a state, have signed a document according to which we do not have such ammunition. Although I think some warrant officer once hid such ammunition in his basement and forgot it was there [laughs].
(I): In what areas did the Pions operate after the decommissioning and until February 24, 2022?
(S): They were used from December 2014 to April 2015. It was the area of Donetsk airport, the withdrawal of our troops from the encirclement in Debaltseve. Practically in the same areas as now.
And then, the Minsk agreements were signed, heavy weapons, namely artillery systems, were moved behind the withdrawal line, and since then, there has been no combat use of Pions. We maintained their combat potential, conducted training, and were ready to strike at the first command.
(I): Have you heard anything about a Tyulpan, a 240-millimeter mortar allegedly available in Ukraine? There are such rumors.
(O): There is not a single Tyulpan in Ukraine, that’s for sure.
(I): Besides the Pions, your brigade also has Panzergaubitzes, German 155mm self-propelled artillery systems – how do you find them in use?
(O): Good modern weapons made with love for people and the goal of fulfilling a combat mission. To win quickly, accurately, and efficiently, with a wide range of ammunition and a high level of computerization. On the one hand, this is good, but on the other hand, it is not very good because a person quickly gets used to one good thing and gets unaccustomed to another.
(I): From the Soviet Gvozdika, for example?
(O): Not so much from the Soviet one… When you drive a Mercedes, you don’t really want to get into a Zhiguli [Lada]. But in reality, Panzergaubits are very good weapons, with their own “diseases,” of course, they break down like any other equipment. But we need more such weapons.
(I): How long did your guys learn to work on Panzergaubits?
(O): About a month and a half. At first, we were trained in batteries in Germany, and now unit commanders, sergeants, and gunners are training other soldiers so that we can have both replacement and development.
(I): Sooner or later, the life of the Pions will be exhausted, and Ukraine does not produce new ones. What of the existing weapons or those provided by Western partners can replace the Pions?
(O): While as of February 24, Pion was our longest-range artillery, this is no longer the case. Panzerhaubitze, Krab or Caesar can easily outbid the Pion.
Some of the ammunition provided by our Western partners today can easily accomplish the task at 50-70 kilometers.
But we should also consider the power of the ammunition itself: a 203-millimeter shell is still a 203-millimeter shell. It’s enough to destroy a command post in a two-story building or some command post in concrete.
Every weapon, every ammunition has its purpose. Well, This is what people invented to kill each other, right?
(I): What weapons do you lack now? What kind of howitzers?
(O): Howitzers? We lack electronic warfare and air defense. We have everything else, in principle. We need tactical-level air defense, i.e., conventional man-portable air defense systems.
(S): According to the Soviet staffing, each Pion crew was equipped with a Strela-2M MANPADS and an anti-aircraft gunner. Because Ukraine simply does not have these anti-aircraft gunners, the man-portable air defense system was replaced with a 5.45 handgun [light infantry machine gun].
(I): We have already asked this question of the 45th brigade’s commander, Colonel Oleh Faidyuk, but we will ask you again. When were artillery depots exploding all over Ukraine before 2014 and especially after, did you ever feel that there was a targeted sabotage?
(O): This targeted sabotage was going on even before 2014. Remember Novobohdanivka in the Zaporizhzhia region. I understand this was all done with the help of people in power, these Lebedevs, Salamatin, and so on.
Then there was the utilization of ammunition from 2012-2013 – the newest Soviet shells were cut up. Gun barrels stored at the bases were destroyed.
With the help of its proxies, Russia was purposefully destroying Ukraine’s Armed Forces. But everyone is like that: “Well, Russia is our brother, our neighbor. It will not attack us.” Some people did not believe it, and some people helped with their deliberate participation – that’s all.
(I): During these explosions at the warehouses, did you think it might be an attempt to weaken Ukraine before a major offensive?
(O): We knew it. There was nothing to think about. No warehouse explodes for no reason. It’s a big engineering development involving counteracting various factors – from fires to earthquakes. These are crazy safety measures.
Perhaps during the first explosion, it was not clear what it might be during the second. And then 2014, the war, artillery depots burning, some of them twice – how can this be?
(I): So Russia has been preparing for an offensive for a long time, since the early 2000s?
(O): Absolutely. This is geopolitics, but they need a buffer around their country-a place where something is constantly happening, where they can distract the attention of their people, so it’s easier to control the herd. Therefore, everything was planned in advance: the right people were gradually appointed to the positions of defense ministers and presidents.
I don’t know why we, the whole nation, didn’t notice this before. Did we want to see it, and could we?
(I): How can we, as a society, prevent these mistakes in the future?
(O): In the future? Our parents voted for these presidents, and we elected this government. And you still have it ahead of you. To avoid making mistakes, read books, and see how it all ends. And then everyone has to do their job well. This is the only way.
(I): Last question: Describing Russia’s offensive on Kyiv last year, you said that all wars start similarly. How do they end? What are the scenarios for the end of this war?
(O): All wars end at the negotiating table. What is said at this table will depend on what the parties come to. In any case, there will be a winning and losing countries.
What can be considered a loss and a victory today? I don’t know. How can burn territory or killing people, for example, be considered a victory?
(S): Even if we push the enemy beyond the state border, I will never consider it a victory. This is the cessation of the war for a certain period, no more.
(O): A complete victory can only be the destruction of the entire system that exists there. Because to have a time bomb nearby.
(I): As for the negotiating table: do you think there are territorial compromises that would be acceptable to Ukrainian society?
(O): No, there can be no compromises. No giving something away to get something in return. There are fixed borders recognized by the international community. Whether politicians want it or not, whether they will contribute to it or not. The people will not allow it.
The Russo-Ukrainian War has been a protracted and devastating conflict that began in 2014, sparked by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the emergence of Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region. Over the years, countless battles have been fought, with both sides experiencing victories and losses. One of the pivotal moments in this ongoing war was the Battle of Hostomel, during which a Ukrainian National Guard soldier known by the callsign “Starsky” played a crucial role. This report aims to provide comprehensive details about Starsky’s journey and the significance of the Battle of Hostomel in the broader context of the Russo-Ukrainian War.
The Russo-Ukrainian War has been characterized by territorial disputes, political tensions, and military confrontations. After Russia’s 2014 invasion, a separatist movement emerged in eastern Ukraine, leading to armed conflict between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian insurgents. The war has resulted in thousands of deaths, massive displacement of civilians, and significant geopolitical repercussions.
Senior Lieutenant “Operator Starsky,” not his real name, is a dedicated and courageous Ukrainian soldier whose passion for defending his homeland was forged during the 2014 “Maidan” protests in Kyiv. During those defiant days, as Ukrainians rallied against Russian influence, Starsky was injured, which further fueled his determination to stand up to aggression and protect his country.
The Battle of Hostomel took place in April 2022, during the early days of a new Russian invasion ordered by President Vladimir Putin. On this occasion, 35 Russian attack helicopters targeted the Hostomel airport, strategically located on the northwest outskirts of Kyiv. The airport’s capture was crucial for the invading Russian forces, as it would have allowed them to establish an air bridge for transporting supplies, equipment, and troops, potentially leading to a significant shift in the conflict’s momentum.
The Turning Point: In the face of the Russian assault, Starsky and his unit of Ukrainian defenders exhibited extraordinary bravery and resilience. Armed with rifles, they opened fire on the incoming attack helicopters, even though the helicopters were heavily armored. Over the course of three intense and grueling days, the Ukrainians engaged in fierce combat that resulted in the devastation of the airport’s runway, hangars, and aircraft. In an improbable turn of events, they emerged victorious, successfully wresting back full control of the Hostomel airport.
Significance of the Battle: The Battle of Hostomel proved to be a critical turning point in the Russo-Ukrainian War. By holding onto the Hostomel airport, Starsky and his fellow soldiers denied Russia the ability to establish a military foothold near Kyiv. This victory had far-reaching implications, as it forced the Russian forces to reassess their strategy and regroup. Had they succeeded in capturing Hostomel, it could have provided them with a major advantage, potentially leading to a more aggressive and successful push towards the Ukrainian capital.
Aftermath and Humanitarian Concerns: While the Ukrainian victory at Hostomel dealt a blow to the Russian forces, it did not prevent them from committing alleged atrocities in nearby towns, such as Bucha. Reports from Bucha revealed allegations of mass civilian killings by Russian occupiers, sparking international outrage and calls for accountability for potential war crimes.
Chemical Weapons Threat: Starsky expressed deep concern over the potential use of chemical weapons in the conflict. According to him, Russian officers operating in the Donbas region were equipped with antidotes to protect themselves against the effects of their own chemical weapons. This raised serious alarms about the possibility of chemical attacks on the frontlines, posing grave risks to civilians and military personnel alike.
Future Outlook: Despite the challenges and the potential for further escalation, Starsky remains steadfast in his commitment to defend Ukraine’s freedom and sovereignty. The conflict has drawn global attention and calls for peace, with many nations urging a diplomatic resolution and condemning any use of banned weapons.
The Battle of Hostomel, fought under the leadership of the courageous Ukrainian soldier Starsky, stands as a testament to the resilience of the Ukrainian forces in the face of aggression. By successfully defending the airport and thwarting Russia’s advances, Starsky and his unit played a pivotal role in altering the course of the Russo-Ukrainian War. As the conflict continues to unfold, the international community must remain vigilant in monitoring humanitarian concerns and supporting efforts towards a peaceful resolution that upholds Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The story of Starsky and the Battle of Hostomel serves as a stark reminder of the human toll of war and the indomitable spirit of those who strive to protect their homeland.
Amidst the ravages of the war in Donbas and the Russo-Ukrainian conflict, the Ukrainian units displayed unyielding courage and resilience. Among them, the Georgian National Legion, known as ‘Грузинський національний легіон’ (Hruzynsʹkyy natsionalʹnyy lehion) in Ukrainian and ‘ქართული ლეგიონი’ (kartuli legioni) in Georgian, stood as a remarkable military force. Founded in 2014 by Mamuka Mamulashvili, a seasoned Georgian officer with experience in the Abkhaz–Georgian conflict, the First Chechen War, and the Russo-Georgian War, the legion attracted mainly ethnic Georgian volunteers committed to fighting alongside Ukraine against Russian aggression.
The idea behind the formation of the Georgian Legion was to unite people of diverse nationalities, united by a common cause: to resist the Russian encroachment on Ukrainian soil. Over time, the unit’s ranks swelled, and it gained recognition for its exceptional skill in recruiting American volunteers, earning praise from experts in foreign fighters in Ukraine.
By June 2023, the Georgian Legion had evolved into a multinational force, comprising volunteers from 33 different nationalities, each eager to defend Ukraine’s sovereignty.
The legion’s history was marked by several pivotal moments. After initial founding with just six Georgian members, it grew steadily to about 20 by the end of its founding year. In January 2015, the unit faced its first loss when veteran Georgian soldier Tamaz Sukhiashvili fell in action. Their involvement was supported, to some extent, by Mikheil Saakashvili, the former President of Georgia, and his associates from Georgia’s United National Movement party.
In recognition of their dedication, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church awarded 29 Georgian fighters a medal for their love and sacrifice for Ukraine. Despite uncertainties surrounding the unit’s future after the Minsk II agreement, the Ukrainian parliament’s decision to allow foreign nationals and stateless individuals to join the Ukrainian army on contract ensured the Georgian Legion’s continuity.
Eventually, in February 2016, the legion was formally integrated into the 25th Mechanized Infantry Battalion “Kyiv Rus” of the Ukrainian Army. However, due to differences with the 54th Mechanized Brigade’s command, the legion withdrew from the brigade in December 2017. Nevertheless, it remained committed to the Ukrainian cause and continued its service in another brigade.
As the storm of the 2022 Russian invasion hit, the Georgian Legion found itself actively participating in training newly recruited Ukrainian civilians. They fought valiantly in battles like the Battle of Antonov Airport and the pivotal Battle of Hostomel.
Notably, the legion upheld strict recruitment policies, welcoming only experienced fighters and military veterans while shunning those with extremist views. Their dedication and valor led to an influx of over 300 interested recruits in early March 2022, further bolstering their ranks.
The Battle of Hostomel exacted a heavy toll on the Georgian Legion, with 32 of its volunteers making the ultimate sacrifice. Among the fallen were Alexander (Alika) Tsaava, Arkadi Kasradze, Zaza Bitsadze, Giorgi Grigolia, Kiril Shanava, Kakha Gogol, Aluda Zviadauri, Davit (Dato) Gobejishvili, Davit Menabdishvili, Nikoloz (Nika) Shanava, and Rati Shurgaia.
These brave souls, immortalized in the April Nine Monument in Tbilisi, will forever be remembered for their unwavering dedication and selflessness in defense of Ukraine. The Georgian National Legion’s indomitable spirit and sacrifice stand as a testament to the enduring bond between Georgia and Ukraine in the face of adversity.”
Russian Armed Forces
Russian Airborne Forces (VDV)
Russian Special Forces, particularly the 31st Guards Air Assault Brigade
11th Guards Air Assault Brigade
31st Guards Air Assault Brigade
Russian Air Force
National Guard of Russia
141st Motorized Regiment (“Kadyrovites”)
The Russian Airborne Forces, also known as VDV (Vozdushno-Desantnye Voyska), are a highly trained and specialized branch of the Russian Armed Forces. This report provides an overview of the Russian Airborne Forces, including their history, organization, capabilities, and roles in military operations.
The Russian Airborne Forces represent a vital component of the Russian Armed Forces, known for their specialized airborne capabilities and combat effectiveness. With a rich history and a reputation as an elite force, they continue to play a significant role in Russia’s military strategy, both in conventional and unconventional operations. Their capabilities for rapid deployment, airborne assaults, and operational versatility make them a critical asset in ensuring Russia’s national security and military objectives.
The Russian Airborne Division has two [formerly three] BMD-equipped airborne regiments. Division-level support elements include an artillery regiment, an air defense battalion, an assault gun battalion, an engineer battalion, a signal battalion, a transportation and maintenance battalion, a parachute rigging and resupply battalion, a medical battalion, a chemical defense company, and a reconnaissance company.
The airborne division is almost fully equipped with motorized equipment. This significantly increases its combat power and mobility while retaining an airdrop capability for most of its equipment. The airborne division has the BMD AAICV in all of its airborne (infantry) regiments. An artillery regiment, an assault gun (ASU-85) battalion, and an antiaircraft battalion provide essential CS. The introduction of the 2S9 SP howitzer as a replacement for towed artillery will increase mobility. Also, the airborne division has other CS and CSS units that provide limited backup for combat operations.
The Airborne Regiment consists of three BMD-equipped airborne battalions, a mortar battery, an antiaircraft battery, and an antitank battery. Regimental support elements include an engineer company, a signal company, a transport and maintenance company, a parachute rigging and resupply company, a medical platoon, and a chemical defense platoon, and a supply and service platoon.
The airborne regiment has a nucleus of three airborne battalions and three fire support subunits. These fire support subunits include one mortar battery, one ATGM battery, and one AA battery. There are other elements that support the combat elements. Each regiment now has over 100 BMDs in three different configurations. The basic BMD-I is the standard squad vehicle. Air defense and automatic grenade launcher platoons within battalions use the BMD M1979/1. The BMD-1 KSh serves as a command vehicle at battalion and regimental headquarters. By adding the BMD to such an extent, the VDV upgraded troop protection, mobility, and firepower while retaining air-drapability. Only a few items within airborne regiments are not air-droppable (for example, several trucks).
The Airborne Battalion has three airborne companies. Equipping airborne companies with BMDs has eliminated the need for a battalion-level antitank battery. Furthermore, the wide distribution of man-portable, surface-to-air missiles has eliminated the need for a battalion air defense section. The airborne battalion is designed to provide command, control, and limited communication, supply, and medical support.
The Airborne Company consists of three platoons of BMDs. There are three BMDs in each platoon (one per squad). Besides the heavily-armed BMD, basic weapons of the airborne company include modern assault rifles, light machine guns, automatic grenade launchers, ATGMs, and numerous RPGs and shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles.
The airborne division’s artillery regiment consists primarily of two firing battalions. The first is a 122-mm towed howitzer (D-30) battalion with 18 tubes. The other is a composite battalion with twelve D-30s and six 122-mm rocket launchers (BM-21V). The artillery regiment also has limited organic support elements.
After 2005, the VDV formed three components:
The Russian Federation also had four Separate Air Assault Brigades that belong to the appropriate military district/JSK commander, a holdover from a similar command and control relationship in Soviet times.
The main maneuver units of the Russian Airborne Forces branch consisted in 2013 of two Airborne Divisions, two Air Assault Divisions, and one Separate Air Assault Brigade.
The Russian military assigned an additional three air assault brigades to the Airborne Forces (VDV) in order to boost its rapid reaction capability in future conflicts, VDV commander Col. Gen. Vladimir Shamanov said 31 July 2013. “The Airborne Troops will become the core of Russia’s rapid reaction forces, and in order to ensure that…the paratroopers are capable of performing this task, I proposed to the Russian military leadership to reassign three air assault brigades from the Eastern and Southern military districts to the VDV,” Shamanov said. “My proposal was approved,” he said, adding the brigades could join the Airborne Forces as early as October or November 2013.
There are plans to create a fourth brigade. These units’ reconnaissance companies are being bolstered to the size of battalions, and independent regiments (special-operations and communications) are becoming brigades. The regiments are being given army aviation companies; at some point in the future the VDV service will have one or two army aviation brigades. The VDV units are also being given their own UAV companies, which will eventually become UAV squadrons. Finally, there are plans for each VDV division to get a third airborne (or airborne assault) regiment; they now have two such regiments apiece.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told a meeting of the Ministry of Defense (MoD) board on 29 April 2020 that the Russian Airborne Forces would receive their ninth and tenth battalions of BMD-4M airborne infantry fighting vehicles in 2020. Unlike other mechanized units, which use a variety of APCs and IFVs such as the BMP series, BTR series, and MT-LB, the VDV uses BMD family vehicles exclusively [Boyevaya Mashina Desanta = Battle Vehicle Desant, “desant” = assault]. In March the Russian Airborne Forces received the eighth battalion kit of upgraded BMD-4M IFVs, two more BMD-4M battalion kits will be delivered before the end of the year.
By the middle of the 2020s, Russia will form airmobile brigades in four strategic directions to be better prepared for ‘grey zone’ conflicts. A critical fact about airmobile brigades is that Russia can use them for pre-emptive strikes, such as the destruction of critical targets or capture of strategic objectives. The ability to fight in so-called grey zones will become crucial in the future. The concept of grey zones does not only apply to geographical areas; it also has a temporal dimension.
In the future, it will be increasingly difficult to pinpoint the exact starting point of hostilities, define the boundaries of an area of operations, or identify the enemy. Airmobile brigades, whose tasks include supporting units that act separately from the main forces or partisan combat behind enemy lines, fit well into this pattern.
The formation of airmobile, or “new type”, assault units in the Airborne Forces is a major objective of the Russian armed forces during the 2020s. The army brigades and naval infantry already have a small number of airmobile units, but these are predominantly intended for reconnaissance operations and “small tactical episodes”. In contrast to the existing units, which do not have organic subunits with their own aircraft, the new airmobile units are more independent and, most importantly, are equipped with helicopters and do not depend on the support of other units for relocation.
Russia developed its concept of airmobile units in 2018, building on the experience of the US, China and other countries. Since 2018, airmobile units have been tested in all major exercises (Vostok 2018, Tsentr 2019 and Kavkaz 2020). The 31st Guards Air Assault Brigade based in Ulyanovsk is an experimental unit. The plan is to replace the existing units of the Airborne Forces with four airmobile brigades – one for each strategic direction. The 31st Airmobile Brigade in Ulyanovsk will cover the western strategic direction, while the brigade to be established in the Orenburg Oblast will cover the Central Asia strategic direction. The units to be set up based on the 56th and 83rd Guards Air Assault Brigades will cover the southwestern and eastern strategic directions, respectively.
Public sources are flooded with distorted information concerning the formation of airmobile units – from the deadlines for forming the new brigades to speculation about their composition and weapons. The formation of the airmobile brigades is unlikely to occur before 2025. Establishing new brigades is not easy. Currently, Mi-28N attack helicopters are used to perform fire support functions for airmobile units. Helicopters specifically designed for airmobile units should be introduced by the middle of the decade. The aim is also to replace the existing fleet of vehicles by adding amphibious capabilities and stronger armor and upgrading the weaponry on the vehicles. However, several parts of the Russian armaments programs have been stalled or suspended (partially due to sanctions). Russia’s ability to fully implement the armaments program for the airmobile brigades is therefore uncertain.
Another problem is the scarcity of human resources. Many units in the Russian armed forces, including critical units, are still understaffed. They are trying to conceal this fact. Each new airmobile brigade is likely to be 4,000 to 4,500 strong. While there are currently around 10,000 troops in the existing four guards air assault brigades, the new “brigades” are to have between 16,000 and 17,000 – these would be very large for Soviet/Russian divisions, much less brigades. Even if the existing helicopter squadrons are included, it is clear that more people need to be found for the new brigades. The cost of forming the airmobile brigades may be the liquidation of the 11th Guards Air Assault Brigade.
This shortage of people is aggravated by the outflow and bad quality of human resources, as well as a low motivation to serve. Competition for admission to Russian military academies (including the most prestigious ones) remains at a low level and will affect the officer corps’ quality in the future.
(Russian: 11-я отдельная гвардейская десантно-штурмовая бригада) is an airborne brigade of the Russian Airborne Troops, currently based at Sosnovy Bor near Ulan Ude in Buryatia. The brigade was first formed in 1968 as the 11th Separate Air Assault Brigade and two of its helicopter regiments fought in the Soviet–Afghan War. The brigade formed in 1968 at Mogocha as the 11th Separate Airborne Brigade. In 1971 it became the 11th Air Assault Brigade. In 1988, the brigade became an airborne brigade again. It moved to Ulan Ude in May 1993. The brigade became an air assault brigade in 1998. The brigade received the Guards title in 2015.
The brigade was formed as the 11th Separate Airborne Brigade on 1 August 1968 in Mogocha. Along with the 13th Separate Airborne Brigade, it was the first of many Soviet air assault brigades formed in the Cold War. It was formed from the 1st Battalion of the 113th Guards Motorized Rifle Regiment of the 38th Guards Motor Rifle Division, which was renamed the 617th Separate Airborne Assault Battalion. The 696th Helicopter Regiment, 656th Separate Communications Company and the 49th Separate Airfield Technical Support company combined to form the 211th Aviation Group. The 618th and 619th Separate Airborne Assault battalions were formed from two battalions of the 52nd Motorized Rifle Division in Nizhneudinsk. The 284th Independent Artillery Battalion was formed in Mogocha during the same month. The 617th, 618th and 619th Separate Airborne Assault Battalions (OVSHB) became air assault battalions (ODSHB) in April 1969. In July 1971, it was renamed the 11th Landing-Assault Brigade (air assault; ODShBr).
In January 2022, elements of the brigade were reportedly deployed to Belarus in the context of the Ukraine crisis. The brigade was then employed in the subsequent invasion of Ukraine.
During the Russian invasion of Ukraine some members of the 11th Guards Air Assault Brigade – Captain Mikhoyev and Corporal Kasatkin – were captured as Prisoners of War by the Ukrainian Defense Force. On March 7, the Ukrainian military claimed to have killed Lt. Col. Denis Glebov, deputy commander of the brigade, in action near Kharkiv.
The Russian air assault brigade currently consists of:
is an airborne infantry brigade of the Russian Airborne Troops, based in Ulyanovsk, that participated in the Battle of Hostomel. The brigade was formed in 1998 from the 104th Guards Airborne Division. The brigade fought in the Second Chechen War and the Russo-Georgian War. During the Crimean crisis 2014 elements of the brigade entered Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. In August 2014 brigade’s units participated in the war in Donbas. The brigade fought in the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, beginning with the Battle of Antonov Airport in which they suffered heavy losses.
The brigade was created as a result of the disbandment of the 104th Guards Airborne Division in 1998 at Ulyanovsk. Between 1999 and 2001, the brigade fought in the Second Chechen War. For their actions during the war, Senior lieutenants Grigory Galkin and Roman Igoshin were awarded the title Hero of the Russian Federation (Igoshin posthumously). Since 2005, the brigade has used a contract manning system. On 1 December 2006, it was redesignated as an air assault brigade. A battalion tactical group of the brigade fought in the Russo-Georgian War in 2008.
A monument to Army General Vasily Margelov is located at the brigade’s base in Ulyanovsk. In April 2010, VDV commander Vladimir Shamanov visited the brigade and viewed its battalion tactical exercises.
The brigade was part of the Collective Rapid Reaction Force as of 2013.
In February 2014, elements of the brigade were sent to Crimea. Brigade troops assaulted the building of Crimean Parliament, wearing Ukrainian “Berkut” police uniforms and insignia.
In August 2014 the brigade’s units fought in the Battle of Ilovaisk. On 26 August a column of mixed 8th Mountain Brigade and 31st Air Assault Brigade units was ambushed by a Ukrainian anti-tank artillery squad of the 51st Mechanized Brigade near Mnohopillya village. Two soldiers of 31st Brigade were captured: Ruslan Akhmetov and Arseniy Ilmitov. During a rescue attempt, another 31st Brigade unit was ambushed. Nikolai Kozlov, a paratrooper who participated in the Crimean Parliament building takeover in February, lost his leg in the ambush. After Russian “RBK” media had published an investigation where it assumed Akhmetov and Ilmitov were killed in the battle of Ilovaisk, notorious “Lifenews” media made a TV report, where it visited brigade’s garrison in Ulyanovsk and spoke to both Akhmetov and Ilmitov proving they’re alive and are actual servicemen of the Russian army.
During the Ukrainian forces’ withdrawal from Ilovaisk on August 29, Donbas Battalion fighters were able to capture two soldiers of the 31st Air Assault Brigade near Chervonosilske village: Nikita Terskikh and Eugen Sardaryan, as well as some soldiers of 6th Tank Brigade.
On 4 June 2015, TASS cited an unnamed official claiming that the 104th Guards Airborne Division would be reformed from the brigade.
The 31st Airborne Brigade alerted as part of high alert check of the Airborne Forces.
In March 2016, the brigade temporarily moved from its base at Ulyanovsk to Orenburg in snap readiness drills.
The brigade was deployed to Belarus in preparation for the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began on 24 February 2022. The soldiers of the brigade boarded helicopters that morning, ostensibly for exercises. Once airborne, they were notified that they were at war with Ukraine before mounting a surprise air assault that began the Battle of Antonov Airport near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. The brigade quickly seized control of the airfield, but Russian reinforcements were prevented from using it by Ukrainian anti-aircraft fire. Facing counterattacks in which at least 34 soldiers of the brigade were killed. The 31st was then committed to the Battle of Hostomel, in which they suffered heavy casualties that included brigade commander Colonel Sergey Karasev and battalion commanders Major Alexey Oskin and Lieutenant Colonel Denis Yagidarov. After the Russian retreat from Kyiv Oblast on 1 April, the remnants of the brigade were redeployed to eastern Ukraine for the Battle of Izium and then participated in the Battle of Sievierodonetsk.
As of 2021, brigade units include:
Commander Colonel Sergei Karasev took command on July 2021, and was KIA in Ukraine on March 11, 2022.
The 141st Special Motorized Regiment (Russian: 141-й специальный моторизованный полк, romanized: 141-y spetsial’nyy motorizovannyy polk), also known as the Kadyrovites, Kadyrovtsy (from Russian: Кадыровцы, lit. ’Kadyrov’s followers’) after Akhmad Kadyrov, and the Akhmat special forces unit is a paramilitary organization in Chechnya, Russia, that serves as the protection of the Head of the Chechen Republic. The term Kadyrovtsy is commonly used in Chechnya to refer to any armed, ethnically-Chechen men under the control of Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov, although nominally they are under the umbrella of the National Guard of Russia.
Akhmad Kadyrov, the then chief mufti of separatist Chechnya, defected to the Russian side in the Second Chechen War in 1999, and the Kadyrovites began fighting separatists and jihadists during the “guerrilla phase” as a de facto unit of the state police after he was appointed Chechen President in July 2000. Kadyrov was assassinated in 2004. Control of the militia was inherited by his son, Ramzan Kadyrov. In 2006, the Kadyrovites were legalized as a motorized regiment of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, as the 141st Motorized Regiment. When Kadyrov was elected Chechen President in 2007 its current official role as a personal protective service was established. Besides the 141st, units considered “Kadyrovites” also include the Chechen branches of OMON and SOBR.
The Kadyrovites have been criticized as being Ramzan Kadyrov’s private army, and have been accused of committing widespread human rights abuses such as kidnapping, forced disappearances, torture and murder. Critics claim the Kadyrovites use extrajudicial punishment to cement Kadyrov’s autocratic rule. By mid-2000s they surpass Russian federal servicemen as the most feared organization among Chechnya’s civilian population. Under Kadyrov’s orders, the Kadyrovites committed anti-gay purges in Chechnya, including operating concentration camps for gay men. The Kadyrovites have also been involved in international conflicts including the Syrian Civil War in 2017 and the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.
As part of Russian military intervention in the Syrian civil war, Kadyrovite police units were deployed on the ground in Aleppo Syria to “preserve order” and engage in civic outreach.
Chechen militants loyal to Kadyrov have been active in the Russo-Ukrainian War since 2014. These forces include the Vostok Battalion and the Chechen Death Battalion. Kadyrovite volunteer units participated in the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24. Ramzan Kadyrov confirmed on February 26 that the Kadyrovites had been deployed in Ukraine. According to Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, they were deployed to capture and kill Ukraine’s leaders, including Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Foreign Policy described the deployment of Chechen Kadyrovites as “leveraging the very presence of Chechen soldiers in Ukraine as a psychological weapon against Ukrainians”.
The Kyiv Independent reported the destruction of a Chechen column of 56 tanks by Ukrainian missiles near Hostomel on 27 February. According to Ukrainian sources, the missile attack had been delayed because the Kadyrovites had been hiding in civilian infrastructure. On the same day, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said that the Alpha Group of the SBU had ambushed a convoy of Chechen troops in Hostomel and killed the commander of the 141st motorized regiment Major General Magomed Tushayev. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov denied this, saying he was still alive and posted a video which he said showed Tushayev alive. Chechen media posted video it said was of Tushayev denying his death on 16 March 2022.
According to Ukrainian media, Chechen troops have been used as barrier troops, used to address low morale by executing Russian deserters. April 1, Ukrainian media reported that Chechen troops executed conscripted soldiers of the Luhansk People’s Republic who refused to fight. There were unconfirmed reports that Chechen troops were executing Russian troops who were too injured in field hospitals. On 29 April, Ukrainian intelligence alleged that a unit of Buryat soldiers and Chechen troops exchanged fire on the village of Kyselivka in the Kherson Oblast. Supposedly the conflict was caused by the sharing of loot, exacerbated by tensions with what the Buryat soldiers saw as favoritism of the Chechen troops, as the Buryats had to be in the frontlines and conduct offensive operations while the Chechens are better-equipped and stay behind as barrier troops or conduct anti-partisan warfare.
On March 1, Kadyrov said that Chechen fighters in Ukraine had sustained losses of two killed and six wounded. According to Ukrainian intelligence, the Chechen units suffered “hundreds” of casualties while being deployed around Kyiv and were withdrawn to Chechnya on 13 March 2022. Chechen troops were seen fighting in the Siege of Mariupol. The National Guard of Ukraine released a video appearing to show fighters from the Azov Regiment, based in Mariupol, greasing bullets in lard (salo) to be used against Chechen troops as an insult, in reference to the prohibition of pork in Islamic law.
Chechen troops in Ukraine have become known for publishing videos on social media, including combat footage from Mariupol. Kadyrov was widely mocked online as a “TikTok warrior” after a picture meant to show him traveling in Ukraine showed him praying at a gas station whose brand only exists in Russia.
In late June 2022, Ramzan Kadyrov announced the creation of four new battalions consisting only of ethnic Chechens. These battalions would be named “North-Akhmat”, “South-Akhmat”, “West-Akhmat,” and “East-Akhmat”, according to Kadyrov, and that they would be sent to fight in Ukraine.