By Christopher Miskimon

The battle for Antonov Airport near Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, began at 8 a.m. on February 24, 2022. A battalion of Russian paratroopers from the 11th and 31st Guards Air Assault Brigades, aboard Mi-8 helicopters with escorting Ka-52 gunships, moved to capture the airport. If successful the Russians could fly in more troops and armored vehicles, outflanking the city’s defenses. They flew fast and low, avoiding targeting radars but were observed visually. Machine guns and shoulder fired missiles soon deluged the Russians; their gunships replied to suppress the Ukrainians but two Mi-8s were shot down. Russian Su-25 ground attack aircraft joined the fight, destroying some Ukrainian positions, though a Ka-52 was lost to a Ukrainian missile. The Russian paratroopers pushed the defenders out of the airport, called for the transports carrying their reinforcements and formed a perimeter against the expected counterattack. It was not long in coming. Ukrainian militia, special forces and a mechanized battalion assaulted the airport; the Russians held but their perimeter was slowly shrinking. A second counterattack caused casualties to both sides. The Russians still held but realized the incoming transports would be shot out of the sky if they approached, so their commander used his radio to turn them away. 

The first year of the Ukraine War proved a chaotic period of attack, counterattack and desperate defensive actions. This new book, by a former US Army general who trained with the Ukrainians, lays out the war’s prelude, the armies of both sides, and how the fighting unfolded. While the author admits a bias for Ukraine, the book does not gloss over Ukrainian problems and shortcomings and gives a reasonably balanced view of the conflict. It provides good insights into an ongoing war where propaganda and fact compete for attention.

The Russian Invasion of Ukraine February-December 2022: Destroying the Myth of Russian Invincibility (John S. Harrel, Maj. Gen. U.S. Ret’d, Pen and Sword Books, South Yorkshire UK, 2023, maps, photographs, notes, bibliography, index, $36.95, HC) 

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