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Drone Footage Shows Ukraine's Donetsk Airport in Ruins After Months of Fighting

The stunning footage shows shows bombed and burned out buildings amid a frozen landscape pockmarked by artillery and mortar shell impacts.
Image via YouTube/Army SOS

Drone footage of the destruction caused by months of bitter fighting at Donetsk Airport in eastern Ukraine shows bombed and burned out buildings amid a frozen landscape pockmarked by artillery and mortar shell impacts.

The airport has been largely in the hands of Ukrainian government forces, but pro-Russia separatists also have positions in the destroyed airport buildings — and the opposing sides sometimes battle from floor to floor.


The rebels claim to have taken control of the facility on January 16, according to the New York Times, with a Russian TV station showing images of the rebel flag flying over the airport's burned and broken main terminal. The Ukrainian Army denied the claim.

A fundraising collective for the Ukrainian army that calls itself Army SOS published this drone video. The group said the footage was shot on January 15.

This screenshot appears to be the main terminal at the airport:

Bodies pile up in Donetsk morgue as Ukraine ceasefire continues to crumble. Read more here.

A destroyed aircraft hanger:

A destroyed plane and craters from shelling:

This building at the center of the half circle is the former air traffic control tower, which collapsed last week, according to the New York Times:

The full video is here:

The Times described the battle for the airport as a "harrowing, close-quarter fight that has stretched on for months." The main terminal, the paper says, was built for the Euro 2012 soccer tournament, but is now a "battered and booby-trapped wreck where rebel fighters control the third floor and above. Ukrainian forces hold the first and second floors, and access to subterranean tunnels originally laid for communications cables."

Fighting takes place through holes in the floor and walls, and in stairwells.

Footage shown Thursday on the pro-separatist Russian news channel Life News purportedly shows the rebel flag flying over the airport, and rebel troops involved in a "cleanup operation." The correspondent seems to move around quite casually for an active combat situation, and, in one case, walks upright behind a separatist militiaman shooting at something nearby, then nonchalantly takes cover behind some flimsy airport chairs.


'Russian Roulette.' Watch the VICE News dispatches from Ukraine here.

Donetsk airport sits on the contested front line between separatist forces and Ukrainian government forces. The conflict in the Donetsk region began when the pro-Russia separatists in the self-described Donetsk People's Republic declared independence from Ukraine after the 2014 Ukrainian uprising that evicted pro-Russia president Viktor Yanukovych.

The first battle for the airport began in May 2014. A ceasefire was reached shortly thereafter but fighting broke out again in September 2014 and has continued since.

Life for civilians in the city of nearby rebel-controlled city of Donetsk is far from easy. Many residents have had homes destroyed by shelling. Some live in miserable conditions in underground bunkers.

The news site has assembled before and after photos from some airport locations shown in the video.

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