A CNN reporter covering the war in Ukraine was caught in the middle of a live firefight between Russian special forces and Ukrainian defenders at an important airfield near Kiev.
Russian and Ukrainian soldiers exchanged gunfire in a battle for control of the Gostomel (Gostomel) airfield, a cargo airport near Kiev, minutes after CNN’s Matthew Chance began talking to Russian soldiers whom he initially mistook for Ukrainians.
Russian special forces landed at the air base to create a springboard for the transfer of additional troops and the capture of the airport.
Chance, shocked to learn that he was talking to Russian airborne troops, found himself in the midst of a counterattack by Ukrainian soldiers.
The footage shows Chance and a colleague, both wearing “press” body armor, crouching against a wall as a car pulls up, and several other members of his team swoop in so the group can evade the firefight.
A CNN reporter filmed a fierce firefight between Russian special forces and Ukrainian defenders near Antonov airport on Thursday afternoon.
The two forces fought for control of the Gostomel (Gostomel) airfield, a cargo airport near Kiev that is vital to the defense of the capital.
Matthew Chance of CNN was seen wearing a press bulletproof vest while trying to evade the firefight.
The footage features several other members of the CNN team to avoid a shootout.
Airborne units are considered an elite force, specially selected for their skill and ability to parachute during the initial attack.
They attacked and captured the Gostomel (Gostomel) airfield early on Thursday morning, and the Ukrainian leadership promised to return it, according to Agence France-Presse.
“Enemy paratroopers in Gostomel are blocked, the troops received an order to destroy them,” President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video message.
Gostomel is located in the northwestern suburbs of Kiev, so it is vital to protect the Ukrainian capital from Russian takeover.
Eyewitnesses told the AFP news agency that they saw a helicopter flying low over the airfield and fighter jets firing missiles at the Ukrainian military.
“Then there was shooting. This went on for three hours. Then three more planes flew in and they started firing again,” an unknown local resident told AFP.
Ukraine’s leadership said it had regained control around 20:00 local time on Thursday.
An adviser to the Ukrainian president posted on Facebook on Thursday evening: “The Gostomel airport is ours,” “Russian paratroopers have been destroyed.”
Russian troops attacked and seized the airfield early Thursday morning, and the Ukrainian leadership has promised to take it back.
The Ukrainian leadership has said it has regained control after heavy fighting, although the airfield’s current status is not clear.
Eyewitnesses told AFP they saw a helicopter flying low over the airfield and fighter jets firing missiles at the Ukrainian military.
“The base over there is smoking, it was bombed, our houses are nearby. We don’t know where to run, my parents are here, my sister,” Lyudmila Klimova, 58, who lives nearby, told AFP.
“There are Russian troops there, my friend lives there, and the Russians have already approached his mother with a machine gun,” she added.
Oleksandr Kovtonenko, 30, who lives near the airfield, said he saw two fighter jets firing missiles at Ukrainian ground units earlier Thursday.
“Then there was shooting, it lasted three hours. Then three more planes came in and they started firing again,” he told AFP.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces, in an update at 20:00 local time (13:00 ET), said they believe there are more than 60 Russian battalion tactical groups deployed on Ukrainian soil, equivalent to between 30,000 and 60,000 troops.
It stated that “the enemy’s morale is extremely low.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his troops early on Thursday morning to carry out a so-called “special military operation.”
Prior to the invasion, analysts and intelligence experts believed that Putin had up to 190,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders at various locations.
Before dawn, Russian troops attacked from the south across the Crimea; from the east, where the city of Kharkiv is under heavy pressure; and from the north, when troops from both Russia and Belarus cross the Belarusian border in tanks.
The National Guard of Ukraine has shared a photo of soldiers who they say repelled an attack by Russian paratroopers at the airport.
Loud explosions were heard around Kiev early Thursday morning, and US officials said they expected the city to fall by the end of the weekend.
General George Joulvan, who commanded NATO during the war in the Balkans, said on Thursday evening that he expects Kiev to fall within 24 to 36 hours.
As night fell on Thursday, residents sought shelter in the city’s deep subway system, knowing nighttime shelling was likely.
In the afternoon, smoke swirled over the city, and one blow was believed to have hit a railway bridge in the center of Kiev.
The Ukrainian National Guard tweeted a photo of three young soldiers holding a bullet-riddled Ukrainian flag.
They signed the photo as follows: “Guards with their flag, torn to pieces after today’s battle.
“Congratulations to all of you and we say that we will win!”