The Ukrainian Government has said that the Donetsk International Airport and its surrounding areas in eastern Ukraine are still under its control, a few hours after the rebels claimed to have control over it.

Earlier today, self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) has claimed total control of the airport, after a prolonged battle with the Ukrainian forces.

Russian news agency Itar-Tass has reported the official Donetsk news agency quoting a spokesman as saying: "Today, we can say that we control the territory of the Donetsk airport and its vicinities."

However, within hours, Ukraine made a counterclaim.

The news agency quoted the Ukraine military operation press service as saying: "Donetsk Airport is under control of Ukraine’s military. Relative calm has been seen here since 8pm on 15 January."

"Today, we can say that we control the territory of the Donetsk airport and its vicinities."

The rebel militia has been fighting with the Ukrainian armed forces since May for the airport and its vicinity.

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The airport was being held partly by the two groups, with the Ukrainian forces controlling the main civil terminal.

According to DPR sources, around ten Ukrainian troops are in the terminal building but have stopped offering resistance.

Sputnik News has quoted DPR’s military headquarters as saying: "More than ten Ukrainian military personnel have been killed and another six people have been discovered burned in the terminal."

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine said yesterday that there was ‘substantial damage’ to civilian infrastructure and residences caused by artillery.

The team could not venture further into the airport as shelling, counter-shelling and small arms fire in and around the airport was ongoing.

"The SMM strongly regrets the use of civilian areas as firing positions, which invites retaliatory strikes and further endangers the lives of civilians," a spokesperson said.

Image: Donetsk International Airport has been a target of rebel attacks since May. Photo: courtesy of Michael1238.