“They endured! The concrete couldn’t stand it!” – this is how they say in Ukraine about the defenders of the Donetsk airport. They are called by “cyborgs”, paying tribute to the tenacity with which they kept the object unsuitable for defense under constant fire for eight months, repelling attack after attack. “Cyborgs”, experts say, showed Putin that Ukraine is capable of resisting Russian aggression.
It so happened that in Ukraine there are two Days of Remembrance of the Defenders of Donetsk Airport:
- the unofficial date of January 16, which became established in 2016, when DAP defenders and their families gathered in Kyiv to commemorate their fallen comrades,
- and official – January 20, installed The Ministry of Defense and the General Staff of the Armed Forces.
The participants of the battles for the Donetsk airport themselves say that on January 16, “the new terminal was still ours”, and the most tragic days of the defense were January 19 (the first undermining of the terminal ceiling by militants), January 20 (second subversion), when 51 defenders diedand January 21when Ihor Branovytsky was killed.
The fighting for the Donetsk airport began on May 26, 2014.
For the first months, the Donetsk airport was under the control of the Ukrainian military. They were fighters of the 3rd Kirovohrad special forces regiment, a company of the 93rd mechanized brigade, and volunteers of the Right Sector DUK. From the village of Pisky, the defenders of the DAP were covered by fighters of the fourth battalion-tactical group of the 93rd mechanized brigade. The colonel was in charge of the defense of the airport Oleksandr Trepak (pseudo “Redoubt”).
He died on September 14, 2014 Evgeny Podolyanchuk.
The day of September 28, 2014 became “black”. Then 9 Ukrainian soldiers were killed, and 20 were wounded.
In October 2014, before the birthday of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Russian mass media were informed that “the airport was taken.” However, despite constant attacks with the use of heavy equipment and assaults, the Ukrainian soldiers, in a complete environment, continued to hold the DAP.
Heavy fighting took place at the Donetsk airport in November 2014. RFE/RL compiled a chronology of the events of this month’s defense epic from news reports and stories of participants in the events.
Read and watch here: November battles for Donetsk airport in 2014
In December 2014, it became known from the intercepted negotiations of the enemy that Russian special forces were involved against the Ukrainian defenders of the DAP.
27 of them died, wrote the then adviser to the fifth president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko Yuriy Biryukov. The DAP defenders restrained the attack, and the enemy suffered losses and retreated.
Severe frosts hit, the temperature dropped almost to -30. But when January 7 came, the “cyborgs” who held the tower of the Donetsk airport decided to carol.
Control over the tower of the Donetsk airport allowed the defenders of the DAP to ensure timely and accurate coverage of the terminals with artillery fire.
Armed groups of the Russian hybrid forces, the so-called “battalions of the DNR”, attacked the tower many times, shelling it with all types of weapons, including tanks and anti-aircraft guns. As a result of prolonged tank shelling January 13, 2015 the tower fell. At that time, there were Ukrainian soldiers in it. Several of them continued adjusting the fire from the destroyed building for another three days.
Heavy battles followed, wounded and tired soldiers had to be replaced. And on the night of January 18, a group of fighters from the 90th battalion entered the DAP. And on the 19th there was already the first explosion.
“The worst thing is when you hear the moan of a dying friend and you can’t do anything to help. And there are no painkillers, they are somewhere under the rubble… This hurts the soul more than anything,” said Anatoliy Svyrid.
Those who remained alive, without waiting for the unlocking, left the terminal and were captured by the group of pro-Russian militants “Sparta”. They were subjected to torture, and Ihor Branovytskyi was killed.
At first, this very day was considered the last day of the defensive epic and was called the number of 242 days.
But later it became known that the defense of Donetsk airport lasted 244 days, not 242.
After the new terminal was blown up by militants, six Ukrainian fighters “Abdula”, “Rex”, “Zhyvchyk”, “Fox”, “Zhmerinka”, “Wolf” under the command of “Adam” (Maksym Rydzanich) without communication continued to hold the “Fire” position for another two days, which was in the fire depot between the terminal and the airport control tower.
The last day of defense is January 23.
During 8 months of defense, 109 fighters died at the Donetsk airport. Five of them were awarded the title “Hero of Ukraine” posthumously. Half a thousand DAP defenders were injured.
“At the limit of human capabilities, under numerous enemy attacks and sieges, the “cyborgs” held this outpost until the last,” the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine notes.
All our fallen Heroes
“We learned to fight on the go. We persevered and did not give up. We attended to the wounded and even pulled out those killed under fire. All our fallen Heroes. I am proud of every moment spent together in the same formation,” wrote Vitaliy Pyasetskyi, one of the defenders of the Donetsk airport.
During the defense epic, Donetsk Airport and its adjacent facilities were held by special forces of the 3rd separate regiment, fighters of the “Right Sector” DUK, 93rd and 72nd separate mechanized, 79th, 80th, 81st, 95th separate airmobile brigades, fighters of the combined detachment “Wild Duck”, 1st and 17th separate tank brigades and 57th separate motorized infantry brigades, 90th separate airmobile and 74th separate reconnaissance battalions, fighters of the Dnipro regiment -1″ and “Carpathian Sich”.
Read the stories of the Donetsk airport defenders about those events in the section: “Donetsk Airport”.
Radio Svoboda publishes the stories of defenders of the Donetsk airport. The stories collected during 2015 were included in the book “AD 242. History of courage, brotherhood and self-sacrifice”.
After the beginning of the large-scale invasion of Russia, many defenders of the Donetsk airport went to the front. Some died. How Ruslan Borovyk, who took a large number of photographs during the defense of the DAP and published a book with them. Ruslan Borovyk also filmed a video in which “cyborgs” sing the National Anthem of Ukraine.
“The airport was a buffer between two worlds”a paratrooper of the 79th brigade said in an interview with Radio Svoboda in 2015 Mykola Gutsalenkowho was one of those who raised the Ukrainian flag over the new terminal of the Donetsk airport.