LONDON – With tensions in Ukraine rising over a potential Russian invasion, could we potentially see the same as what we saw in Kabul in its capital, Kyiv?
At the moment, the signs are indicating that a Russian invasion could be happening, with world leaders having crunch talks with Vladimir Putin to take the diplomatic way forward.
This piece will look at what happened in Kabul Airport as well as some signs we are seeing that could indicate the same will happen in Kyiv.
Using Kabul Airport For Context
Back on August 15, 2021, following the U.S withdrawal from Afghanistan, “Kabul Airport… suspended commercial operations following the impending takeover of the capital by the Taliban” (Field, 2021).
Over the course of that day, the security situation changed quickly, with embassy staff, frightened members of the population, and others seeking to get onboard the many flights that came into Kabul to evacuate.
This was seen in its extremities, especially with an United States Air Force Boeing C-17 Globemaster being reported to have “defied all odds and carried 800 passengers in one flight” (Field, 2021a).
One reason why we could see a pattern for Kyiv is that “the situation in Afghanistan… deteriorated at such a fast pace” and that if Russia invades, it will be in their interest to secure the capital’s airports being Boryspil International Airport and Kyiv International Airport (Field, 2021b).
This took months to re-establish some form of normalcy, especially through the fact that “as we entered the New Year… up to 20 flights take off and land at Kabul Airport daily, with the use of Afghanistan airspace increasing” (Field, 2022).
The most recent developments from this came from the Afghanistan Transport Ministry and Qatar Airways “to open up a new route from Kabul to the Qatari capital city, Doha” (Abed, 2022).
The Profile of Kyiv’s Airports
Kyiv is home to two airports, being Kyiv International Airport (Zhuliany) and Boryspil International Airport.
Boryspil International Airport is the much larger airport, handling around “15.26 million people” across “110,000 flights” (Ivanov, 2020).
Kyiv International Airport is a smaller field, that handled around 2.61 million passengers in 2019 and houses more of the low-cost carriers such as Wizz Air (IEV.aero, 2020).
Irrespective of the size between the two airports, they will become crucial in the evacuation effort if Russia does decide to invade the capital.
This is also because both airports do house military installments and taking a substantial amount of the Ukrainian air defenses would no doubt put a dent in the survivability of the current Ukrainian state.
For example, Boryspil houses the 15th Transport Aviation Brigade and Kyiv International Airport handles the military, especially with it being owned by the Ukrainian Government and the City of Kyiv.
So, if an invasion was to take place, then the airports would be seen as a high priority for the Russians to secure in order to neutralize Ukraine further in that area.
Compared to the previous point as well, it does offer the chance of being a Kabul Airport 2.0 but on a far bigger scale as it would involve two airports as opposed to one.
All Eyes Are On The Russians
It does remain clear that all eyes are on the Russians at present, especially with the UK “Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis [saying] Russia could invade Ukraine very, very quickly [and that there] is evidence of the threat” (BBC, 2022).
With there being a very serious threat to European peace, as the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz mentions as well as “the available avenues for talks had been [already] used”, we could begin to see this unfold over the next couple of days (Halasz, 2022).
With Ukrainian skies still remaining “open and safe”, as Ukrainian officials state, it will probably not be long before this decision is reversed and the country will have to operate militarily in the air (Voitovych et al, 2022).
Whatever happens, world leaders involved in this crisis really need to make sure that what was seen in Kabul does not happen again in a city like Kyiv and other parts of Ukraine.
Because if we do, we will see such similar levels of chaos and carnage and will leave Ukraine in just as bad a position, which is exactly what the Russians will want.
The fact we are seeing embassy staff, foreign nationals, and others being urged to leave would suggest that this is in the pipeline.
When exactly this will happen, we just don’t know. And that is the most dangerous part not just to the political system, but to the welfare of those in Ukraine.
- Field, J. (2021), LIVE: Chaos At Kabul Airport As Taliban Prepare For Full Control of Afghanistan, AviationSource, https://aviationsourcenews.com/general-news/chaos-at-kabul-airport-as-taliban-prepare-for-full-control-of-afghanistan/ [Last Accessed 13/2/22]
- Field, J. (2021a), The Kabul Air Lift: USAF C-17 Defies All Odds & Carries 800 Passengers in One Flight, AviationSource, https://aviationsourcenews.com/general-news/the-kabul-air-lift-usaf-c-17-defies-all-odds-carries-800-passengers-in-one-flight/ [Last Accessed 13/2/22]
- Field, J. (2021b), Kabul Airport Closure: A Brief Look at Hamid Karzai International Airport, AviationSource, https://aviationsourcenews.com/airport/kabul-airport-closure-a-brief-look-at-hamid-karzai-international-airport/ [Last Accessed 13/2/22]
- Field, J. (2022), Months on From The Kabul Airport Closure – What is the situation now?, AviationSource, https://aviationsourcenews.com/airport/months-on-from-the-kabul-airport-closure-what-is-the-situation-now/ [Last Accessed 13/2/22]
- Abed, A. (2022), Mutual Agreement Between Afghanistan Transport Ministry & Qatar Airways To Begin Kabul Flights, AviationSource, https://aviationsourcenews.com/news/mutual-agreement-between-afghan-transport-ministry-qatar-airways-to-begin-kabul-flights/ [Last Accessed 13/2/22]
- Ivanov, A. (2020), Boryspil Airport Increased Traffic By 21% Over The Year, Biz Ukraine, https://biz.nv.ua/ukr/markets/borispil-aeroport-borispil-zbilshiv-pasazhiropotik-na-21-novini-ukrajini-50063456.html [Last Accessed 13/2/22]
- IEV.aero (2020), Kyiv International Airport cooperates with more than 43 airlines, operating flights to about 140 cities and 48 countries. There are about 2,500 flights a month, and we serve almost 2 million passengers every year, https://iev.aero/press-centre/stats [Last Accessed 13/2/22]
- BBC (2022), Russia could invade Ukraine very quickly – NI secretary, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-60366169 [Last Accessed 13/2/22]
- Halasz, S. (2022), German Chancellor says there is a “very, very serious” threat to peace in Europe, CNN, https://edition.cnn.com/europe/live-news/ukraine-russia-news-02-13-22/index.html [Last Accessed 13/2/22]
- Voitovych et al (2022), Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Infrastructure denies reports of closed airspace, CNN, https://edition.cnn.com/europe/live-news/ukraine-russia-news-02-13-22/index.html [Last Accessed 13/2/22]