The air war over Ukraine
A year of bloodshed
Text: Miro Barič
Photo: Ukrajinian armed forces, social media and other public sources
The first UH-60 Black Hawk of the Ukrainian GRU military intelligence.
Even though the Russian aggression against Ukraine started
in the Crimea and Donbas in February 2014, and their terrorist
activities even sooner, in February this year we commemorated
the first anniversary of the Russian attack on the whole Ukrainian
territory. It is the largest conflict in Europe since 1945.
This part of our series will be a summary of the
events in the past 12 months. In the end, as usual,
we focus on the events taking place between
February 1 to March 1 and relevant to
the air war.
For several months the Russian troops were
gathering near the Ukrainian borders and the
American intelligence services warned it was not
an exercise but preparation for the invasion. The
government in Kremlin repeatedly stated that it
was not going to attack Ukraine, on the contrary
the troops would be withdrawn after the exercise
was completed. None of it was true. On Thursday,
February 24. 2022, early morning the massive
bombing of the targets all over the entire Ukraine
started and the Russian troops attacked in four
directions – to Kiev, Kharkov, Donbas and Kherson
from Crimea. The most important target was Kiev.
Putin’s army wanted to capture the capital and
consequently the whole country in a couple of days.
The paratroopers from the helicopters were tasked
to capture the airport Hostomel near Kiev so that
the reinforcements and heavy equipment could be
moved there by the transportation airplanes. The
Russians however failed to capture Kiev and kill or
capture Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.
He refused the American offer to evacuate saying:
“I need ammo not a ride!”
The Russian advance on Kiev and Kharkov was
stalled and was very slow in Donbas. The Russians
made a rapid advance in the south only. The local
Ukrainian command there failed miserably in
organizing the defenses, a criminal deed in fact. In
a couple of days, Kherson, north-west of Crimea
and Melitopol, north-east of Crimea, were captured.
Mariupol was surrounded but the advance from
Kherson to Mykolaiv and Odessa was halted by
Ukrainians. The key moment was the Russian defeat
at Voznesensk. At Kiev the Russians tried to break
through with a convoy many kilometers long. The
Ukrainian troops however (and Russian logistical
mistakes) stopped the convoy and significant parts
of it were destroyed. Without supplies the Russians
had to start a retreat.
In the beginning of month, the Russians had to
withdraw from the areas north of Kiev. After they left
a lot of evidence was found about the massacre of
civilians in the town of Bucha and other cities. After
its retreat from Kiev, the Russian army started to
focus on Donbas where heaviest fighting has taken
place since. Even though Russians withdrew from
certain areas, they continued to shell the Ukrainian
cities with missiles. Step by step the military aid for
Ukraine started. In the beginning of April Slovakia
was among the first countries to offer aid by
delivering S-300 AA system. In the middle of April,
in the Black Sea, the cruiser Moscow, a flagship of
the Russian Black Sea Fleet was sunk having been
hit by two Ukrainian missiles.
The Ukrainians started heavy shelling and bombing
of the Snake Island located near the coast and
border with Romania. The island controls the
shipping routes to Odessa. The Russians captured
it during the first day of war. In the middle of
May, the defenders of the steelworks Azovstal in
Mariupol were ordered to cease the resistance.
By May 20 all of them surrendered. Even though
these days is considered taboo, during this
month the Ukrainians received their first aircraft