Hostomel, Ukraine : Dmitry Nekazakov was walking his dog before he went to work when the Russian shelling started on Hostomel, a city on the outskirts of the capital, Kyiv. The sky buzzed with low-flying helicopters from which Russian troops jumped, while 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 there didn't stop. Nekazakov said he spent 20 days sitting on the ground in his basement during the night. In the cold light of day, he and other residents in his neighborhood would emerge 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 forest some 4 kilometers (around 2.5 miles) away.
Now, only the remains of that sprawling military camp sit among the trees. CNN was shown around the camp by Ukrainian special forces, who are picking up clues as to what Russia's plans may have been for the capital among the debris.
Earlier in the invasion, as Russian troops surged toward Kyiv, Ukrainian special forces believe 6,000 marines set up camp in this pine forest for a month, through the rain, snow, and temperatures that dropped to -12 degrees Celsius (around 10 degrees Fahrenheit). The site included a main command post and headquarters. It was from here and 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 further actions, on the directions of the offensive, tactics of action, and so on," a Ukrainian special forces officer told CNN, pointing to where each part of the operation was located.
Huge grooves are visible where troops had fired grad missiles from a field, located forty kilometers (around 25 miles) from the capital. In the woods, discs from grad missiles that had been launched and ammunition cases litter the floor at launch positions.
The Russian forces built dugouts, command posts, ammunition storage and communication lines using the trees and wood from the forest.
They slept in underground fortifications, covered with timber and green wooden boxes that had once contained BM-21 grad multiple rocket launchers and tube artillery. Black wires connected each of the shelters across the forest for communication.
Remnants of the Russian military camp can be seen in a forested area about an hour's drive north of Kyiv.
The forest was also littered with food containers emblazoned with the branding of the Russian military: A special forces member uncovered a sodden notepad 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.
Gesturing to the size of the camp, one officer told CNN, "Russians fight 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, the Middle Ages, when they took not by skill, but by quantity," he added.