Such a loss would mark Ukraine’s most significant and bloodiest tragedy since the battle for Illovaisk in August 2014, in which hundreds of Ukrainian troops were killed. Ukrainian troops’ defense of the airport, besieged since September, had become a symbol of pride for Ukrainians, with its occupants immortalized as ‘the cyborgs’.

George Tuka, who heads the People’s Home Front volunteer group, posted on Facebook that Ukraine’s General Staff had devised a plan to surround the airport and push the insurgents farther away from it, but when Ukrainian troops clashed with rebels in Donetsk itself separatists seized the first and third floors of the airport’s new terminal.

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Ukrainian troops remained on the second floor, but when the ceiling above them collapsed some of the soldiers were killed, Tuka said. Others were captured by insurgents or withdrew from the airport, he added. 

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“Today 37 heroes were killed at the airport,” Vladimir Sergeyev, another volunteer who helps provide equipment and supplies to the Ukrainian army, wrote on Facebook. “Many of them were finished off by Chechen scumbags. Forgive us, brothers! We did our best! Heroes do not die!” 

Social networks were abuzz with news that hundreds of Russian special forces and dozens of Russian military vehicles had been used during the takeover of the airport, but this information could not be independently verified. 

The report follows announcements by Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council that Russia had sent several battalions of regular troops to Donbas. President Petro Poroshenko announced on Jan. 21 that over 2,000 Russian servicemen had recently crossed the border into Ukraine. 

Kyiv Post
staff writer Oleg Sukhov can be reached at [email protected]

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