Rebels gain control of Donetsk Airport as Ukraine withdraws its troops

23 January 2015 (Last Updated January 23rd, 2015 05:01)

Ukrainian troops have completely withdrawn from Donetsk Airport, losing an eight month battle to pro-Russia rebels.

Donetsk

Ukrainian troops have completely withdrawn from Donetsk Airport, losing an eight month battle to pro-Russia rebels.

The separatists have captured the troops and paraded them in Donetsk, where a bus was caught in the crossfire on Thursday, killing at least six civilians in the process.

Ukraine and the separatists were holding different parts of the devastated airport, with the former in control of the main terminal.

"Both new and old terminals, control tower, everything that could be used as defence stronghold, were completely destroyed."

The rebel militia has been fighting with Ukraine since May for the airport. Last week, the two sides claimed control over it.

The armed forces had to withdraw after their strongholds were completely destroyed and they came under direct attack from the militia.

Ukrainian military news portal Censor.NET chief editor Yurii Butusov wrote on Facebook: "The defence of Donetsk Airport lasted for 242 days from 26 May 2014 to 22 January 2015.

"Both new and old terminals, control tower, everything that could be used as defence stronghold, were completely destroyed. The airport turned into direct fire engagement area, but the last surviving defenders left the ruins of the new terminal building only today."

However, the Ukrainian military has claimed that it was a tactical withdrawal from the airport.

The Telegraph reported Ukrainian military spokesman Vladislav Seleznyov as saying: "Yesterday, the decision was taken to leave the territory of the terminal for new positions.

"We continue to control the southern part of the airport. We left the new terminal because it looks like a sieve and there's simply nowhere to hide there."

Rebel militia told pro-Kremlin media group LifeNews that they found around 15 severely wounded Ukrainians inside the ruined airport.


Image: The damaged air traffic control tower at Donetsk International Airport. Photo: courtesy of Pravda DPR.