January 21, Ukrainians commemorate those who fought in the battle of Donetsk airport. On this day in 2015, government troops left its ruins and retreated to the adjacent Pisky village – after 242 days of stiff resistance and mind-numbingly fierce struggle. One of the most dramatic episodes of the ongoing Donbas conflict, it is also the most intense and long-lasting battle in the modern history of Ukraine.
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces called a “lunar surface” what’s left of two terminals, traffic control tower and the landing strip. Ukrainian volunteers – airborne troops, reconnaissance and artillery – held the premises for almost nine months.
Today, a year after the fights ceased, Ukrainian servicemen and volunteers still find dead bodies of defenders of the airport. Some were identified, some were forgotten about, and some were never heard of. The Defense Ministry still can’t provide the actual number of those who died and gone missing in action, as the data is being refreshed from time to time.
According to Oleh Mikats, the-then commander of the 93rd Detached Mechanized Brigade, about a thousand Ukrainian servicemen participated in the battle.
Watch the video:
Donetsk airport - drone footage (January 15, 2015)
In the first few days after the airport collapsed, volunteers managed to find and take away bodies of 52 fighters, most of whom turned to be buried under the wreckage. Many defenders were left there, so the remaining bodies were identified by videos.
The General Staff repeatedly said that the airport was the object of strategic importance, and Ukrainian fighters primarily defended its air strip, which was essential in terms of tactical and strategic benefits.
When the airport was completely destroyed, the Ukrainian military leadership decided to withdraw the Ukrainian units to the west, to Pisky village. The fights in that area still go on.
Watch the video:
You can also watch the full movie "Fortress of the Cyborgs", dedicated to the events that occurred during the battle. Watch the movie here.