An abandoned Russian military camp in a forest near Kyiv reveals the horrors of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Strong images of abandoned Russian camp in Ukraine 4:27 Hostomel, Ukraine (CNN) — Dmitry Nekazakov was walking his dog before going to work when Russian shelling began in Hostomel, a town on the outskirts of the capital Kyiv. The sky buzzed with low-flying helicopters from which Russian troops jumped, as rockets rained down. It was 6:40 am on February 24, the first day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and for almost a month, the bombardment did not stop. Nekazakov said he spent 20 days sitting on the floor of his basement at night. In the cold light of day, he and other residents of his neighborhood would come out to witness the damage that had been inflicted on their homes and devise plans to find safer places to shelter. “For a long time, the shells were coming, the rockets were coming,” he said. The Russian missiles and rockets that decimated buildings, lives and homes were fired from a sprawling Russian base hidden in the woods some 4 kilometers away. Now, only the remains of that sprawling military camp lie among the trees. Ukrainian special forces showed CNN around the camp; Ukrainian forces are picking up clues about what Russia’s plans for the capital might have been amid the rubble. A member of the Ukrainian special forces walks through the abandoned Russian military camp. This is what the military camp looked like in a forest near Kyiv Before the invasion, while the Russian troops advanced towards Kyiv, the Ukrainian special forces believe that 6,000 marines camped in this pine forest for a month, in the rain, the snow and temperatures that dropped to -12 degrees Celsius. The site included a main command post and headquarters. It was from here and from a nearby field that the Russian army launched attacks on Kyiv, Hostomel and the nearby city of Bucha. “Here they made a decision on the deployment of additional actions, on the directions of the offensive, the tactics of action, etc,” a Ukrainian special forces officer told CNN, noting where each part of the operation was located. In the now-abandoned camp, huge ruts are visible where troops had fired graduated missiles from a field, located forty kilometers from the capital. In the woods, discs from launched graded missiles and ammunition crates litter the ground at launch positions. Russian forces built shelters, command posts, ammunition storage, and lines of communication using the trees and wood of the forest. There they slept in underground fortifications, covered with wood and green wooden boxes that had once contained BM-21-grade multiple rocket launchers and tube artillery. Black cables connected each of the shelters through the forest for communication. The remains of the Russian military camp can be seen in a wooded area an hour’s drive north of Kyiv. The forest was also littered with Russian army-branded food containers: A special forces member discovered a soggy notepad he had left behind, containing instructions from a previous mission in Azerbaijan. A Russian camouflage and concealment instruction manual was also discovered at the scene, along with clothing and shoes. Pointing to the size of the camp, one officer told CNN: “The Russians are fighting not in quality, but in quantity.” “They do not consider soldiers as people, for them they are cannon fodder and consumables. The tactics of the Russian army resemble, perhaps, those of the Middle Ages, when they did not take by skill, but by quantity”, he added. The remains of military equipment, clothing and fortifications are not the only things left by the Russians. Russian soldiers stormed into nearby neighborhoods, seizing homes and terrorizing residents they came into contact with, according to local residents and a priest. The torture, humiliation and shallow graves of those killed by those on the ground now haunt these towns. “They beat me… but I’m alive” Vitaliy Chernysh, with his daughter in Zdvyzhivka. Vitaliy Chernysh, from the town of Zdvyzhivka outside Kyiv, said he was cycling through his town when he was captured by Russian forces, who were “hunting Nazis.” He said they held him for almost 24 hours. Chernysh remembers praying in what he thought would be his last minutes alive. “[Estaba] blindfolded, hands tied and all around me. They were shooting,” she told CNN. Chernysh said he was locked in a shed after being forced to walk through a minefield. He said Russian soldiers were considering dousing him with gasoline and threatened to take him to the crematorium. Soldiers fired around his body while he was tied up and constantly asked him what his last wish would be, he said. He lamented being left in the frozen shed for hours. “They hit me in the arms and legs, below the waist. The bruises remained,” he said. I thought my leg was broken, he was limping. But I am alive and well, thank God.” In his garden, an artillery rocket still lies in his field, another daily reminder of his painful ordeal and the month ahead under Russian occupation and attack. Chernysh survived, but other residents they were killed after being tortured by soldiers who came out of their forest fortress. A Smerch rocket tail fin is still in the Chernysh garden. Vasiliy Benca, a local priest in Zdvyzhivka, told CNN that Russian troops, tanks and armored vehicles converged on the village and stayed there for a month. People were afraid they emerged from their cellars, he said. When Benca did, he said he found five men whose bodies had been mutilated in the garden, and two more in the forest.”The Russians asked me, or forced me, to bury two (more) women in the cemetery,” Benca told CNN. Nekazakov, who fled when the Russians attacked his village, has now returned to his home in Hostomel. He remembers all the bodies he went through when he left, he said, and he’s sorry he couldn’t do anything about it. Now, he said, he hates Russian President Vladimir Putin and the soldiers who ravaged his hometown. Dmitry Nekazakov said that he spent 20 nights sheltering in his basement in Hostomel. “I only feel hate. We would not have thought in hundreds of years that this could happen,” he said, looking at the graves of those who died. “We can’t forgive him for the rest of our lives.”