IRPIN, Ukraine – every day for the past week, Russian forces They tried to make their way through this suburb of Kyiv to reach the Ukrainian capital. And every day, the Ukrainian troops forced them to retreat, leaving behind burnt-out tanks and armored personnel carriers.
“We are going out to chase and destroy them,” said Volodymyr, commander of a team of Ukrainian special forces, as his squad, armed with a British 308-caliber sniper rifle and British-made anti-tank weapons, was waiting. The latest Russian attack. “They certainly didn’t come here expecting that, and they were expecting we know how to fight.”
The front lines here have held out pretty much ever since The first day of the war, on February 24, when a Russian convoy moved from Belarus to the north. In some places, including the neighboring town of Bucha, the Russians were expelled.
“Ukraine is fighting in a way that no one expected, neither the Russians nor our Western partners,” said Mikhailo Podolak, a Ukrainian presidential adviser and member of the Kyiv delegation to ceasefire talks with Russia. “Kyiv was supposed to fall in three days.”
This is partly because Ukraine has deployed elite special forces units, which the United States and its allies have trained over the past several years, to defend Kyiv. Armed with British NLAW And US-made Javelin anti-tank weapons and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, they have helped weaken the Russian advantage in aviation, long-range missiles and artillery.
But Kyiv is still holding out because the Russian forces here seem to have stuck to it Soviet-style large-scale maneuvering tacticsmoving in long convoys exposed to strikes by small reconnaissance units and the Ukrainian fleet Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 UAVUkrainian officers said.
“We are shocked at how stupid their behavior is,” said another member of the Ukrainian special forces unit who has been carrying out missions in the area every night. He said his unit has lost two soldiers since the war began nine days ago and has killed more than 60 Russians in recent days. “Right now, we’re mostly focused on hitting their rear, their supply convoys, because if they don’t get the fuel, they can’t do anything.”
Morale among Ukrainian defenders was high in Irpen on Friday, even as a Russian attack plane hovered low over an apartment building and the sounds of artillery shells descended closer and closer. Large plumes of black smoke rose to the north and south of the city, along other major roads where Russian forces have been trying for more than a week to storm Kyiv.
Soldiers here said that cloud cover hindered Russia’s use of combat helicopters. But to prepare in case attack helicopters or planes approach, one of the soldiers took a position with a portable anti-aircraft missile on his shoulder. Soldiers here say they are flying their small drones, including some thermal cameras, to search for Russian targets.
The Russians keep trying to get in and encircle us, but they can’t. “We are together, organized and have a strong will,” said Alyona Pavlova, a citizen of Irbin and the soldier who was helping to evacuate civilians from the city on Friday. “It’s a real war – and no one was really prepared at first, because no one really thought Russia would do something crazy.”
Ukrainian and foreign civilians stream from Irbin and cities outside of Russian control, heading toward the relative safety of Kyiv despite bombing and air strikes.
With a bridge blown up over the Irpen River, they have to go down and under the span and then navigate a perilous path with their bags and pets in hand. Ukrainian soldiers said that there was no formal agreement with Russia on the humanitarian corridor here, and the danger of a Russian shell falling on the area, which had happened before, was continuing.
said Mikhailo, the screenwriter who wandered with my suitcase for more than an hour appeared from the other side of Irbin, near the next town of Bucha. He declined to mention his surname.
“The Russians are hitting everywhere, and it’s exploding outside my house now,” he said. This is the second time Mikhailo has said he has had to move. He fled his hometown of Luhansk after it was captured by pro-Russian forces in 2014.
Tania Rybko and her two children spent the whole morning walking from The town of Hostomel North here. Russian forces control several parts of the city, while Ukrainians are deployed in other areas. And tonight, she said, “we were in the middle of it all, between the two sides.”
It added that Russian forces had captured a nearby apartment building, taken civilians hostage and confiscated their phones so that residents would not contact the Ukrainian forces. Starving, she said, Russian troops are also looting local shops and homes, in search of food.
Mohamed Amine, a Tunisian IT specialist, has been living in Ukraine for 10 years. On Friday, Mr. Amin, his Ukrainian wife and their 4-year-old son, with a small suitcase, left the apartment they had bought in Irbin and walked for about an hour to the bridge, hoping to get to Kyiv and then to the European Union.
“I can’t sit in the shelter anymore,” said Mr. Amin, panting. Russians are just jealous. They feel defeated, and so they bomb apartments with civilians in them. They know very well where civilians live.”
He pointed to the Ukrainian soldiers guarding the bridge with a light yellow ribbon on their helmets. He said: “And these people are heroes. Believe me, I am telling the truth.”
write to Yaroslav Trofimov at [email protected]
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