January 21st, 2020 marked the 5th anniversary of the conclusion of the fight for the Donetsk Airport.
In the days leading up to January 21st, 2015, the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) fighters repelled the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF), stopping their attempt to create a forward base that could be used to carry out attacks on the DPR.
According to the residents of Donbass and direct participants in the confrontation, the victory showed the vulnerability of the UAF and became a serious ideological blow to Kiev.
The fighting for the airport lasted 242 days, apart from a short ceasefire. Hostilities began in April 2014, when fighters of the 3rd regiment of the Ukrainian Armed Forces special forces were transferred to this area. Immediately after that the UAF captured the new terminal and the control tower.
In May 2014, volunteer units of the DPR entered the airport, and the fighters managed to gain a foothold in one of the terminals.
But after the enemy launched an air strike, the Donetsk fighters had to retreat with heavy losses.
As a result, Ukrainian military personnel of the 3rd separate regiment of the Kirovograd Special Forces, the special forces regiment of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Dnepr-1, “Right Sector” volunteer battalion fighters, as well as the 72nd mechanized brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces with heavy equipment and the 79th Airborne Brigade of Ukraine positioned themselves at the airport.
As the UAF General Staff later explained, for the Ukrainian side, maintaining control of the Donetsk airport was of strategic importance.
The airport is located almost in Donetsk and was supposed to be a convenient starting position for the assault on the city.
In addition, the Ukrainian side believes that it was the protracted battles for the airport that stopped the onset of the militia of the DPR and LPR and did not allow expanding the borders of the republics to the administrative borders of Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
In the summer of 2014, active hostilities resumed in the airport area. The UAF managed to dug into their positions, but the DPR fighters were able to partially block the airport and prevent a further attack on Donetsk.
In early October, the Prime Minister of the DPR back then – Alexander Zakharchenko – announced the transfer of 90% of the territory of Donetsk Airport to militia control.
At the same time, the leadership of the Donetsk People’s Republic categorically rejected the proposal of the head of the Donetsk region, Sergei Taruta, to exchange the airport for the territories adjacent to Donetsk.
The DPR fighters made slow progress until the end of 2014, and in the first days of 2015 managed to reach the UAF’s positions at the airport. The DPR, initially captured the entire airport on January 18th, but Ukrainian soldiers remaining in the buildings resisted for another three days, until January 21st, 2015.
On the side of Ukraine, on January 21st, 2020, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attended a ceremony to commemorate Ukrainian “cyborgs” who died during the heroic defense of Donetsk International Airport.
There is a video, also showing the last stand of the Ukrainian “cyborgs” at the Donetsk Airport.
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