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Cyborgs recount the Battle of Donetsk Airport. Direct quotes

Donetsk airport. October 16, 2014, Photo: AFP
Cyborgs recount the Battle of Donetsk Airport. Direct quotes
Article by: Iryna Shtohrin, Andriy Dubchak
Translated by: Christine Chraibi
Five years have passed since the bloody fight for Donetsk Airport, but Ukraine has not forgotten its heroes. The Battle of Donetsk Airport lasted 242 days, from May 26, 2014 to January 21, 2015.

Ukraine recently commemorated the fallen defenders of Donetsk Airport, the fifth anniversary of the last tragic battle for this area. Here are some words and phrases that became headlines for stories about the Cyborgs. They were collected in 2015 and published in a documentary book entitled AD 242 (“AD” is an abbreviation for “Airport Donetsk” and can also be translated as “Hell”-Ed). The direct words spoken by the Cyborgs helped compile the history of the airport’s defense. The quotations preserve this chronological order.

Donetsk Airport, January 15, 2015. Photo: Armiya SOS

“The airport was held because we willed it; it was defended by ordinary people, not cyborgs”

The commander said: “Most of you will end up among the “200”. Whoever doesn’t want to should not go there…” (reference to Cargo 200 – military code word for the transportation of casualties-Ed)

“One fighter asked if it was true that hell had the same odour as the airport”

“The worst thing is the road to Donetsk Airport and unloading the APC (armoured personnel carrier-Ed)

The road to Donetsk airport as seen from the inside of a BTR-80 “Somali”. Video

“Hey, driver, my friend, help us out! Our drivers are the bravest of all men!”

“Most of us had never been under fire, but they (the enemy-Ed) greeted us very “warmly”

“When the tanks started firing, we prayed and promised God many, many things…”

“The airport was held by fighters, and not by the supreme command”

Photo: courtesy of Sergei Loiko

“Our artillery covering the approach to the airport was of great importance”

“Very few locals took part in the attacks against the airport”

“We looked through our binoculars and saw our guys… they’d been crucified!”

“One of ours guys was strangled and the other was burned alive – that’s who we’re fighting…”

Fighters singing the Ukrainian anthem in Donetsk airport. Video: Ruslan Borovyk

“We were “hot news”, so that everything wouldn’t look so bad”

“Whenever a Russian humanitarian convoy arrived… loaded with RPGs (rocket propelled grenades-Ed), we came under fire every 7 minutes”

“Shelling and fire everywhere; everything was exploding; the metal was groaning and creaking… It was horrible!”

“The defense of Donetsk Airport rested on “Mike’s” shoulders (Maksym Myrhorodsky). We’d follow a commander like “Mike” anywhere”

Territory controlled by the Russian-backed militants: church and monastery. Photo: Ruslan Borovyk

“I’ve never seen anything like this… in Iraq, Africa or Kosovo”

“I was the youngest commander. Children’s drawings really lifted our spirits”

“We didn’t drink or take psychotropic drugs. Adrenaline and anger were enough to keep us going”

“The bravest Cyborgs were the guys holding the control tower”

Cyborgs once again raise the Ukrainian flag over Donetsk Airport. Video

“There were so many wounded. Ten people were defending the terminal”

“Donetsk Airport… we called it AD (Hell-Ed)

“The battle lasted eight hours. We were attacked by ten tanks and infantry troops”

“Pravy Sector fighters were at Donetsk Airport from September to November. We’re fighting for our national conscience”

Ukrainian defender in position at Donetsk airport, October, 2014. Photo: Sergei Loiko

“The hardest thing is when your friend dies”

“We all suffered from contusions; we felt drained and weak. There was no time to eat. The battles raged on and on…”

“We saw and heard the enemy, those that attacked us – kadyrivtsi (Chechens) and Russian Special Forces”

“This war and the defense of the airport formed a generation of true men”

Daily life in the control tower of Donetsk airport. Video

“They used the ceasefire as an excuse to blow up the airport”

“I still don’t understand why we had to go through their roadblock”

“They didn’t evacuate their dead and wounded. During the attacks, they ran across the fields, stomping over the bodies of their comrades”

“Whenever a ceasefire was announced, their tanks would push forward and start shooting”

Road to the “new” Donetsk airport terminal. Behind it – the control tower is still standing. December 30, 2014. Photo: RFE / RL

“We spoke both Russian and Ukrainian. Language issues never divided us because we knew we were fighting for Ukraine”

“The phrase – the concrete did not hold, but the people did – is very true”

“When the shelling began, I said: “Guys, now we’re gonna watch a 3D movie with great special effects!”

“There were heroes, and there were those that stayed just to “serve their term”. But, there were very few of them”

A Cyborg. Photo: Sergei Loiko

“There were only four of us defending the weather station”

“There’s no black and white in war; you need to learn from the enemy”

“We wouldn’t have held the airport for so long without the help of volunteers. They brought in equipment, which saved lives”

“Mom didn’t know where I was, but she recognized me in one of Loiko’s photos”

“Everyone was equal; everyone was worthy, no less than his own life”

“Leo”, a defender of Donetsk Airport. Courtesy photo

“We crawled to the toilet on our knees… and ate less”

“Those who fought and continue fighting are all heroes”

“The airport was lost to the enemy due to mistakes made by the military command”

“We showed the world that the Ukrainian spirit is undefeated”

Defenders of Donetsk airport: “Taliban”, “Trofim”, “Botsman”, “Strashny Sergeant”, “Rich”, “Kuzmych”, beginning of November, 2014. Photo: courtesy of Mykhailo Kucheryavenko

“At the airport, I finally understood what it meant to curse war”

“I regret that I didn’t take more photos. There was no time to change the grenade launcher for a camera”

“At Christmas, we sang Christmas carols on the tower. It was -24C”

“The tank was shelling us with direct hits. Then, the tower fell, but God decided that we would live”

Defenders of Donetsk Airport control tower: “Winnie-the-Pooh”, “Sedoy”, “Mykhailovych”. Bottom row: “Patriot”, “Ded”. Photo: RFE/RL

“The explosion blew away the entire floor, like dust”

“I was left with the wounded, and when I realized we were completely surrounded, I approached the separatists to negotiate”

“One of our youngest soldiers dreamed of getting married, but he died, buried under the rubble”

“My good friend Ihor rescued a wounded man and then came back. Ihor was killed by Motorola”

Ihor Branovytsky, December 2014. After the airport terminal had been destroyed by the Russian mercenaries, Ihor was left in the rubble with his wounded brothers. He was captured by the militants, and during interrogation, he saved the lives of his comrades by admitting that he had been in charge of the machine gun in that unit. According to eyewitnesses, the militants brutally beat Branovytsky for several hours and threw him into a cellar. Ihor Branovytsky was executed with 2 shots to the head by Arseniy Pavlov, aka “Motorola”, a Russian national. Photo: Ruslan Borovyk

“I dream of my men…”

“It took the wounded three days to crawl all the way to Pisky”

“The Supreme Command should have evacuated the Cyborgs in time, and then blown up the airport”

“The airport is a symbol of victory of truth and the human spirit”

“We did not surrender the airport; we retreated not more than one kilometer”

Graffiti in Donetsk airport

See complete project of RFL/RL about Donetsk Airport here (in Ukrainian).

Translated by: Christine Chraibi
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