By Vasco Cotovio, Fred Pleitgen and Byron Blunt | CNN
The sound of rockets launching in the distance breaks the silence of an otherwise quiet morning in Kyiv.
“That’s us, we’re attacking Russian positions close to Hostomel,” a Ukrainian soldier says, as the shots fire in a synchronized rhythm.
In this particular instance, the rockets the Ukrainian military is using to target Moscow’s invading troops are actually Russian.
“Last night we sent the Ukrainian armed forces 24 Uragan missiles that were on their way here to fly over our cities,” says Yuri Golodov, the deputy commander of one of Ukraine’s Territorial Forces and a retired seaman from the Ukrainian Navy.
“We captured them intact, gave them to the Armed Forces of Ukraine at night and now the Ukrainian army has fired missiles back at them,” Golodov says.
Golodov plays a key role in repurposing military equipment abandoned by the Russian army — or captured from it.
He leads a team working at a military junkyard at an undisclosed location in Kyiv, repairing and repainting Russian military equipment for use by Ukrainian forces.
“Everything that we take away from the Russian army, we transfer to the armed forces of Ukraine,” he says.
A second life for damaged weapons
When CNN visited the junkyard, Ukrainian forces were stripping bare an artillery support vehicle, used to spot targets.
The Ukrainian flag had been painted over Russian military symbols, and Golodov’s unit was removing communications equipment before sending it back onto the front line.
“We’re going to use it to transport the wounded,” he says, adding it will make an “important” contribution to Ukraine’s war effort.
“This is a very proper cross-country vehicle. It can cope with any swamp or snow.”
Much of the equipment used by the Russian military is similar or the same to that used by Ukrainian soldiers, so they’re familiar with its operation.
“It dates back to the Soviet Union,” Golodov says. “It is quite reliable.”
“Everything is in working condition. It looks old weaponry, but actually if you use it correctly it will serve us for a long time,” he adds.
Golodov says his battalion is also responsible for capturing some of the equipment in the yard.
“We are special forces battalion of deep reconnaissance which works behind enemy lines,” he explains. “Our task is to destroy the provision of the Russian army — ammunition, fuel, food.”
Weapons seized from troops under fire
Around the corner, a former Russian army fuel truck is ready to be redeployed and, under the cover of a camouflage blanket, a captured armored personnel carrier awaits its next assignment.
It is old, rusty and heavy Soviet era machinery that breaks the pavement, as members of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces move it around, but the soldiers here say they will put it to good use.
According to Golodov, the vehicle was captured by his unit, when they attacked a Russian column.
“We shot at the first vehicle, and when it exploded the column stopped,” he says. “(Russian soldiers) ran away and we took their military equipment.”
According to Golodov and his men, this is a common occurrence on the battlefield.
“Russian soldiers are frightened, demoralized. They are afraid to part with each other, because they are being shot at from every bush,” he says.
He says some seem to be very young and inexperienced: “Most of them do not know or understand why they are here.”
Ukraine’s Territorial Defense forces are equally green. Most didn’t have any sort of military training before the Russian invasion, but the men say they are ready for battle.
In another part of the facility, soldiers armed with AK-47s train for a possible encounter with Russian troops. They move in groups in an organized manner and seem unfazed when their commander fires blanks in their direction.
Golodov looks on, proud. Before he retired from the navy, he says he spent time with the Soviet Union’s north fleet in Mursmansk, northwestern Russia, and says he knows what Russian forces are capable of.
He tells us he is not surprised by how well Ukraine has fared in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
“The force of the Russian army is nothing more than a myth,” he says, confident in a Ukrainian victory. “How can someone possibly think otherwise?”