Under Cover of the Night

Ukrainian Special Forces operating behind enemy lines have been smashing supply columns and hobbling the Russian offensive for two months now. Additionally, conventional Ukrainian troops’ ability to launch rapid counterattacks after Russians take offensive actions proves effective in buying time for the country to strengthen its forces and retake lost ground.

Ukrainian SF soldiers, under cover of darkness, patrol the streets of Kharkiv. Image Credit: Agence France-Presse (AFP)

By contrast, significant casualties have depleted Russia’s Spetsnaz Special Forces, whose expertise would take considerable time to replace and rebuild. In the early day of the war, President Putin sent hundreds of helicopter-borne Spetsnaz troops to try to assault and seize a lightly defended airfield outside of Kyiv.

What they did not do apparently was a last-minute recon of the target just before the raid.  Had they done so, they would have seen that Ukraine had obstructed the runway to prevent large fixed-wing aircraft from landing and that a sizeable Ukrainian force including armored vehicles was positioned just outside the airport waiting for them.

The result was a debacle for Russian Special Operations.  Their Mi-8 assault helicopters were on the way to attack Hostomel airfield when several were knocked out of the sky. Once the Russians made it to the ground, they took heavy losses through effective artillery fire and with the blocked runway were unable to bring in supplies and reinforcements. When the Ukrainians counterattacked, the Spetnaz troops were forced to flee into the woods surrounding the airport to survive.