Images show Russian army 27 km from centre of Kyiv

Russian Mi-8 transport helicopters in red, KA-52 ground attack helicopters in blue, Thursday, February 24, 2022, near Kyiv.
Russian Mi-8 transport helicopters in red, KA-52 ground attack helicopters in blue, Thursday, February 24, 2022, near Kyiv. © Telegram

The early morning hours of February 24, the Russian army launched its offensive on Ukraine. The extent of the attacks inside Ukraine was unclear for much of the day, both on the internet and on the ground. Less than 24 hours later, Russian soldiers were filmed 27 kilometres from the centre of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

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Russia’s initial strikes, carried out with cruise and ballistic missiles, mainly targeted Ukrainian airports and military sites, such as radar facilities and air-defence installations. 

While Russian forces attacked Ukraine from the east and northeast, the most direct attack took place near Kyiv. By late morning, Russian Mi-8 transport helicopters were seen near the Antonov cargo airport in Hostomel, a suburb on the northwest outskirts of the capital.

A large-scale air assault

We were able to authenticate videos published online, including one posted at 1:15 pm local time on Telegram. It shows Russian Mi-8 transport helicopters and KA-52 ground attack helicopters flying in unison with two plumes of smoke in the background.

The Russian Mi-8 transport helicopters (in red), the KA-52 ground attack helicopter (in blue). Thursday 24 February 2022, near Kiev.
The Russian Mi-8 transport helicopters (in red), the KA-52 ground attack helicopter (in blue). Thursday 24 February 2022, near Kiev. © Telegram

At one point in the video, a factory chimney becomes visible. We were able to confirm the exact location by using a Wikimapia collaborative map: it is the Vetropack glass factory in Hostomel (exact location here).

The points of comparison of the factory: in blue the chimney, in orange the hangar. Thursday 24 February 2022, Hostomel.
The points of comparison of the factory: in blue the chimney, in orange the hangar. Thursday 24 February 2022, Hostomel. © Left : Telegram / Right : Wikimapia

Another video shows helicopters attacking the same location, near Hostomel. Once again, Russian Mi-8s (which can carry soldiers) arrived in groups, heading towards the Antonov airport.

The Centre for Information Resilience identified the exact location where the video was shot, just three kilometres east of the airport.

Ukrainian army retaliates

In another video posted at 1:06 pm on Telegram, Russian helicopters (once again Mi-8s) cross a dam on a river. We geolocated the video and found that it was shot near the Dnieper river, located 20 km from Antonov airport and 10 km north of Kyiv. 

Point of comparison between the two locations: in red, the dike, in the background we can see the other bank.
Point of comparison between the two locations: in red, the dike, in the background we can see the other bank. © Left : Google Earth Pro / Right : Telegram

As the Russian helicopters approached the shore, the Ukrainian army fired an anti-aircraft missile (in red below) from the west bank of the river. To defend themselves, the Russians deploy flares as a countermeasure to deflect missiles (in green below). None of the helicopters is shot down in the video.

In red, the anti-aircraft missile fired by the Ukrainian army. In green, the self-defence decoys of Russian helicopters.
In red, the anti-aircraft missile fired by the Ukrainian army. In green, the self-defence decoys of Russian helicopters. © Telegram

On the ground: Russian forces take control of airbase near Kyiv

Later in the afternoon, a CNN team filmed Russian soldiers taking control of the Antonov airport, as they disembarked at the entrance. These images seem to confirm that the Russian army has succeeded in breaking through to the outskirts of Kyiv in less than a day.

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry said Thursday that Ukrainian forces had shot down three of 34 Russian helicopters attacking the Antonov airport. 

The Ukrainian army is continuing to fight. A U.S. defence official was quoted as saying on Thursday night that "it's their country they're fighting for."