KOLONCHINA, Ukraine (Associated Press) – As Russian tanks and trucks swarmed near their village, a Ukrainian teenager and his father surreptitiously launched their tiny drone into the air.
Working as a team, they took bird-eye views of the armored column as it moved towards Kyiv He determined his coordinates, and soon sent the valuable information to the Ukrainian army.
Within minutes, artillery batteries rained down on the invading forces with shells that were deadly.
Andrei Pokrasa, 15, and his father, Stanislav, were welcomed to Ukraine for their volunteer aerial reconnaissance work in the early days of the invasion, when Russian forces entered from the north in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt. To take the capital and get to its knees.
For an entire week after the invasion on February 24, the pair made repeated overflights with their drone—risking capture, or worse, if Russian forces knew of their intrusion.
“These were some of the scariest moments of my life,” Andrey recounted as he explained his leadership skills to a team of journalists at The Associated Press.
“We provided the photos and the website to the armed forces,” he said. “They narrowed down the coordinates more precisely and transmitted them by a walkie-talkie, in order to adjust the artillery.”
His father was happy to leave the leadership to the boy.
I can operate the drone, but my son does it better. “We decided right away that he was going to do it,” said Stanislav Pokrasa, 41.
They are not sure how many Russian targets have been destroyed using the information they provided. But they saw the devastation of the Russian convoy when they later put the drone back over the charred hulls of trucks and tanks near a town west of Kyiv and off a strategically important highway leading to the capital.
“More than 20 Russian military vehicles were destroyed, among them fuel trucks and tanks,” the father said.
While Russian and Ukrainian forces were fiercely fighting for control of the suburbs of Kyiv, Ukrainian soldiers finally urged the Pokrassa family to leave their village, which was later occupied by Russian forces.
With all adult men up to the age of 60 under government orders to remain in the country, Bukrassa the Elder was unable to rejoin his wife and son when they fled to neighboring Poland.
They returned a few weeks ago, when Andrei finished his school year.
“I was glad we destroyed someone,” he said. “I was glad I contributed, because I was able to do something. Not just sit and wait.”
Journalist John Lister contributed to this report from Kyiv, Ukraine.
Follow the Associated Press’ coverage of the Ukraine war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine