Belarus has provided Russian Aerospace Forces with a crucial launch pad for operations over Ukraine. Tim Ripley details which Russian air assets are currently operating from various locations across Belarus.
Early in the morning of February 24, a long line of Russian helicopters could be seen flying down the Dnieper river toward the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. As they neared the city, the Kamov Ka-52 Hokum-B gunships and Mil Mi-8 Hip medium-lift utility helicopters turned westward.
On the ground, Ukrainian troops readied a salvo of 9K38 Igla man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) and started to take aim at the Russian rotorcraft. One of the Ka-52s was struck and subsequently crashed into the river, but the formation kept going and, within minutes, the Hips were dropping off Russian Airborne Forces (VDV) troops on the runway of the Hostomel (or Antonov) Airport in Hostomel (a suburb of Kyiv).