Home U.S CNN reporter catches firefight between Russian forces and Ukrainian defenders outside Kyiv...

CNN reporter catches firefight between Russian forces and Ukrainian defenders outside Kyiv airport

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A CNN reporter covering the war in Ukraine was caught in the middle of a firefight on live television between Russian special forces and Ukrainian defenders at an essential airfield just outside of Kyiv.

Russian and Ukrainian soldiers exchanged gunfire in a battle for control of Hostomel (Gostomel) airfield, a cargo airport near Kyiv, minutes after CNN’s Matthew Chance began speaking to Russian soldiers he first believed were Ukrainians.

Russian special forces had descended on the air base in order to establish a bridgehead to bring in more troops and take over the airport. 

Chance, shocked to learn he was speaking to Russian airborne troops, found himself in the middle of a counterattack from Ukrainian solders. 

Footage shows Chance and a colleague, both wearing bulletproof vests with the ‘press,’ crouching against a wall as a car pulled up and several others from his team swooped in so the group could evade the firefight.

A CNN reporter filmed an intense firefight between Russian special forces and Ukrainian defenders outside Antonov Airport on Thursday afternoon

A CNN reporter filmed an intense firefight between Russian special forces and Ukrainian defenders outside Antonov Airport on Thursday afternoon

The two forces were fighting for control of Hostomel (Gostomel) airfield, a cargo airport near Kyiv that is vital to the defense of the capital

The two forces were fighting for control of Hostomel (Gostomel) airfield, a cargo airport near Kyiv that is vital to the defense of the capital

CNN’s Matthew Chance was seen in a bulletproof'press' vest trying to evade the firefight

CNN’s Matthew Chance was seen in a bulletproof ‘press’ vest trying to evade the firefight

Footage captured several others from CNN's team swoop in so the group could evade the gunfire exchange

Footage captured several others from CNN’s team swoop in so the group could evade the gunfire exchange

The airborne units are considered elite forces, specially selected for their skill and ability to parachute in during the initial attack. 

They attacked and seized the Hostomel (Gostomel) airfield early Thursday and Ukraine’s leadership vowed to take it back, according to Agence France-Presse.

‘The enemy paratroopers in Hostomel have been blocked, and troops have received an order to destroy them,’ Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address.

Hostomel is in the northwestern suburbs of Kyiv, making it vital to defend the Ukrainian capital from a Russian takeover.

Witnesses told AFP that they saw helicopter flying low above the airfield and fighter jets shoot missiles at Ukrainian troops.

‘Then there was shooting. It lasted three hours. Then three more jets flew in and they started shooting again,’ one unidentified local told AFP.

Ukraine leadership claimed that it had regained control on Thursday around 8pm local time. 

 An advisor to the Ukrainian president said on Facebook on Thursday evening: ‘Hostomel Airport is ours,’ and, ‘Russian paratroopers have been destroyed.’  

Russian forces attacked and seized the airfield early Thursday and Ukraine's leadership vowed to take it back

Russian forces attacked and seized the airfield early Thursday and Ukraine’s leadership vowed to take it back

Ukraine leadership said it had regained control after intense fighting, though the current status of the airfield is not clear

Ukraine leadership said it had regained control after intense fighting, though the current status of the airfield is not clear

Witnesses told AFP that they saw helicopter flying low above the airfield and fighter jets shoot missiles at Ukrainian troops

Witnesses told AFP that they saw helicopter flying low above the airfield and fighter jets shoot missiles at Ukrainian troops

‘The base is smoking over there, it was bombed, our houses are nearby. We don’t know where to run, my parents are here, my sister,’ Lyudmila Klimova, a 58-year-old who lives nearby, told AFP.

‘Russian troops are there, a friend of mine lives there, and the Russians have already approached his mother with a machine gun,’ she added.

Alexander Kovtonenko, 30, who lives near the airfield, said that he saw two fighter jets firing missiles at Ukrainian ground units earlier Thursday.

‘Then there was shooting, it lasted three hours. Then three more jets flew in and they started shooting again,’ he told AFP. 

Ukraine’s Armed Forces in an update at 8pm local time (1pm ET) said they believe more than 60 Russian battalion tactical groups – the equivalent of between 30,000 to 60,000 troops – have been deployed on Ukrainian territory.

It said the ‘enemy has an extremely low morale’.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent in his forces early on Thursday in what he termed a ‘special military operation’.

Prior to the invasion, analysts and intelligence experts believed Putin had up to 190,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders at various locations. 

Before dawn broke, Russian forces were attacking from the south, through Crimea; from the east, with the city of Kharkiv coming under intense pressure; and from the north, with troops from both Russia and Belarus rolling across the Belorussian border in tanks. 

Ukraine's National Guard shared a photo of soldiers they said had repelled the Russian airborne troops at the airport

Ukraine’s National Guard shared a photo of soldiers they said had repelled the Russian airborne troops at the airport

Loud explosions were heard in the vicinity of the capital, Kyiv, in the early hours of Thursday, and U.S. officials said they expect the city to fall by the end of the weekend.

General George Joulwan, who commanded NATO during the Balkan war, said on Thursday night he expects Kiev to fall within 24-36 hours.

As night fell on Thursday, residents were seeking shelter in the city’s deep subway system, knowing that an overnight barrage was likely.

Smoke was seen billowing above the city in afternoon, and one strike believed to have hit near a railway bridge in central Kyiv.

Ukraine’s National Guard tweeted a photo of three young soldiers holding up a bullet-ridden Ukrainian flag.

They captioned the photo: ‘Guardsmen with their flag, torn to pieces after today’s battle.

‘Congratulations to all of you and say that we will win!’

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