In memoriam: The Defense of Donetsk Airport (25 May 2014 – 22 January 2015)

The new terminal of Donetsk Airport in 2012 and in January 2015. Collage: twitter balticfrequency

The new terminal of Donetsk Airport in 2012 and in January 2015. Collage: twitter balticfrequency 

#ThisDayInHistory, Archive, History, War in the Donbas

The defense of Donetsk Airport lasted for 242 days from 26 May 2014 to 22 January 2015. All buildings that could be used as strongholds for the Ukrainian soldiers were completely destroyed during the battle. By the end of the battle, the airport looked like Stalingrad during World War Two or like “the rubble-strewn moonscape.” The airport defenders were called “cyborgs” by both supporters and foes because the soldiers somehow managed to withstand wave after wave of massive attacks. The cyborgs withstood; the concrete didn’t.

On 25 May 2014 Ukrainian airborne troops landed on the runway of Donetsk Airport and took control of the perimeter and control towers.

Overnight into 26 May 2014, an employee of the Ukraine’s Security Service let Russian armed troops into the Donetsk International Airport:

Russian-hybrid forces captured the terminal buildings of the Airport and demanded the withdrawal of government forces from the area.

The last plane took off from Donetsk at 07:10 on 26 May 2014.

Later on 26 May the first battle took place in Donetsk International Airport. Ukrainian paratroopers launched an assault on the airport, the air force was used to destroy anti-aircraft guns and trucks with reinforcements heading towards the airport.

In the evening of May 26, Ukrainian armed forces took full control of the airport to hold in long 242 days, longer than the duration of the defense of most “hero cities” of the USSR during WWII, like Stalingrad.

Sporadic skirmishes and attacks lasted until September 2014, when clashes intensified and Russian-hybrid forces started to massively use heavy artillery, multiple rocket launchers, tanks, self-propelled guns.

Read more: Meet Ukraine’s legend: the cyborgs defending Donetsk airport

Everyday intense bombardments accompanied unceasing attacks of the Russian infantry and special forces during four months.

First days of the battle:

A May 2012 photo shows the control tower of the airport in Donetsk, 52 m, the highest in Ukraine. Photo: facty.ua

A May 2012 photo shows the control tower of the airport in Donetsk, 52 m, the highest in Ukraine. Photo: facty.ua

 

A Ukrainian national flag flies at top of a badly damaged traffic control tower as smoke rises after shelling at the airport on October 12, 2014.

A Ukrainian national flag flies at top of a badly damaged traffic control tower as smoke rises after shelling at the Donetsk airport on October 12, 2014. Photo: Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters, via theatlantic.com

 

Donetsk Airport: This photo taken by a drone on January 15, 2015 shows the destroyed control tower surrounded by craters and debris at the airport in Donetsk. Photo: ArmySOS, via theatlantic.com

This photo taken by a drone on January 15, 2015 shows the destroyed control tower surrounded by craters and debris at the airport in Donetsk. Photo: ArmySOS, via theatlantic.com

 

Collapsed airport buildings. January 2015, Donetsk. Photo: Army.SOS

Collapsed airport buildings. January 2015, Donetsk. Photo: Army.SOS

The Russian MLRS BM-21 Grad shells Donetsk Airport in September 2014.

 

Ukrainian military unloading provisions near the new terminal. Photo: Sergey Loiko

Ukrainian military unloading provisions near the new terminal amid the Donetsk Airport battle. Photo: Sergey Loiko

 

Ukrainian artillery supported troops holding the airport.

 

airport donetsk

21-year-old ‘cyborg’ Vlad Kazarin, resident of Pokrovsk, Donetsk Oblast defending Donetsk Airport in 2014. Vlad was killed by a mortar shell in 2016 at Svitlodarsk Bulge. Photo: twitter kazarin13

 

A tank of Russian-hybrid forces shells Ukraine strongholds in Donetsk Airport. Winter 2015.
 
'Cyborg' Ivan Trembovetskyi in the old terminal of Donetsk Airport. Photo: focus.ua

‘Cyborg’ Ivan Trembovetskyi with his brothers in arms in the old terminal of Donetsk Airport. Photo: focus.ua

 

The Ukrainian soldiers who repelled intense daily gunfire and artillery attacks became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance, the opposing combined Russian forces labeled the Ukrainian troops “cyborgs” due to their superhuman resilience.

The Cyborgs.

 

Multiple launch rocket system by Russian-hybrid forces attack Donetsk Airport from residential area of West Donetsk. January 2015.

When the Russian hybrid forces finally captured the airport, it was a “pile of rubble,” all buildings were ruined, the cratered runway was littered with the wreckage of war.

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Donetsk International Airport in 2017

Remnants of military equipment can be still found near the ruined buildings of the airport.

As of 2017, ruined constructions of the Russian-held airport are used a tank depot and artillery position to attack villages of Pisky and Opytne.

Infographic of the Battle of Donetsk Airport (2014-2015)

Infographic: uacrisis.org

Infographic: uacrisis.org

Post scriptum

In March 2014, Donetsk Philharmonic Orchestra participated in all-Ukraine flashmob, having performed Beethoven’s Ode to Joy at Donetsk International Airport. Other Ukrainian orchesters played the same perfomances in Kyiv, Lviv, Odesa, Kharkiv, Dnipro.

Two months later the war came to Donetsk Airport. Months later it ceased to exist.

'Cyborgs' drawing by TGalexTG at DeviantArt, the Russian-language text added later reads, "The cyborgs withstood; the concrete didn't."

‘Cyborgs’ drawing by TGalexTG at DeviantArt, the Russian-language text added in 2015 reads, “The cyborgs withstood; the concrete didn’t,” referring to the last battle for the new terminal, when Russian-hybrid troops laid explosives and blew up the ceiling and the base of the second floor, causing it to collapse onto the airport defenders who held the first floor on 20 January 2015. This was the turning point of the battle, by the next day Ukrainian forces were either captured, killed, or were forced to withdraw from the building.

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  • Randolph Carter

    Hasn’t it always been this way? Beauty is destroyed by uncivilized savages who lack the mental capacity to appreciate it or even just leave it alone. The destruction of Rome. The fall of Alexandria. The destruction of archaeological treasures by Islamic fundamentalists.

    Attempted destruction of peaceful Ukraine by a Russian megalomaniac whose greed and lust for power caused the loss of over 10 000 troops and how many millions displaced?

    • Dirk Smith

      Muscovy remains the cancer of humanity.

  • Scradje

    Every single Russian must be forced to pay for this and every other act of mass murder, theft, destruction, rape and extortion inflcted upon Ukraine by the savages and throwbacks in the Kremlin.

    • Sania

      mraz, u did organize this blood
      together with filth ds

    • Screwdriver

      Klitchko is half Russian, should he pay some ?

  • http://www.krantvannederland.nl/ Cees Boogaart

    Between 15-19 January 2015 a number of us managed to disrupt the Ruptly Live broadcast on Youtube of Donetsk Airport assault of russian forces which had 10.000 most (pro)russian viewers, although admin of the feed tried to prevent us doing so, we managed to get a load of FACTS in about Muscovy war in and against Ukraine. In just 3 hours we managed to get viewers down to 300, and then after several days of 24/7 keeping watch and continuing our load the Live broadcast stopped https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCnS93kpxzU . cam location Blahojeva street 68, Donetsk. office
    Sushkina street 55, from there they were sending out live view on donetsk airport for months, at height attack jan19 there were 10000 viewers mostly russians ofc we got it in 1 night down to under 300, then there was a loud bang on door, telephonecall and they left in a hurry..leaving cam on for a while.

  • Screwdriver

    Heavy destruction (at the airport) started when Ukrainian military used helicopters to strike the airport. This is confirmed by the local people: