On Wednesday, 20 January, Ukraine honours the memory of the defenders of the Donetsk airport – one of the symbols of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

The Ukrainian military, who held the line at this strategic facility, sustained the largest losses on 20 January 2015.

According to the Strategic Communications Department of the Office of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, 109 servicepersons were killed defending the Donetsk airport between September 2014 and January 2015. Some 446 soldiers were wounded, and six more are listed as missing.

“The great injustice is that Russia sent us useless persons who could not find themselves anywhere in life and could only kill and rob, and on our part, unfortunately, the best people fought and died. Smart, educated, true patriots who stood up to the last,” said the Chief of Staff – First Deputy Commander of the Operational Command “West,” Major General Oleh Mikats, who commanded the 93rd separate mechanised brigade of the Armed Forces, which defended the airport along with other units of the Armed Forces and volunteers. In total, nine separate brigades of the Armed Forces, the 3rd separate special regiment, the 74th separate reconnaissance battalion, the 91st separate operational regiment, the 8th separate automobile medical ambulance company and servicepersons of the 169th Desna training center took part in the defence.

President Volodymyr Zelensky took part in the mourning ceremony held near the building of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine.

“Ukrainian soldiers at the frontline prove every day that neither the enemy’s armed provocations nor the severe frosts will force them to retreat from their land. Every day we thank them for the peaceful sky over our cities and villages and remember the names of those who died defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. We must do everything possible to ensure that the list of names read out near the Memory Bell does not grow and that peace finally reigns in Ukraine,” the Head of State said.

He laid flowers at the Memory Bell and talked to the relatives of the fallen soldiers.

As a reminder, the defence of the Donetsk airport lasted for 242 days – from 26 May 2014 to 21 January 2015. In the last days, the militants, once again calling for a “ceasefire” to evacuate their wounded and killed soldiers, mined the load-bearing structures of the new terminal and blew them up. The wreckage of the concrete structures covered the remaining defenders, and only then the Ukrainian military retreated to other buildings of the airport and surrounding localities.

Bohdan Marusyak

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