After weeks of literally digging in at the Antonov Airport in Hostomel, just 18 miles (more 28 kilometers) northwest from the Ukrainian capital, Russian forces there have suddenly disappeared, new satellite images show.
On Thursday, an official with the US Department of Defense told CNN they believed that the Russian military had likely left the airport. The new satellite images, taken on Thursday from Maxar Technologies, confirm they have.
Previous satellite images showed that, around military vehicles and artillery positions, the Russians had constructed protective earthen berms. Now, just the berms remain.
The capture of the Antonov airfield was the first major victory notched by the Russians on the first day of the war — Feb. 24. A number of transport and attack helicopters ambushed the base, and the Ukrainian soldiers at it; CNN even witnessed some of the intense firefight at the base.
Since then, Ukrainian forces held strong against the Russian advance; they never made it closer to western Kyiv. Intense firefights took place along the Irpin River and the towns of Irpin and Bucha, just south of the air base and the surrounding village of Hostomel.
And for weeks, the Russian Ministry of Defense released a number of videos praising the ease at which they claimed to have taken the air base. Russian state media echoed those claims, even traveling with troops around the airport as evidence for how safe the area was.
Now, the abandonment is just another example of Russia’s waning military success around the Ukrainian capital.
At this time, it's unclear where the military and artillery vehicles went. Russia has previously claimed that it would decrease its military activity around Kyiv. All of the military forces and vehicles that were positioned west of Kyiv came from Belarus.
The Russians aren't saying if they returned to Belarus, and thick cloud cover is currently preventing any satellite imagery from tracking Russian troop movements in the area.