Article by: Rostyslav Khotyn
Serhiy Loyko, photo correspondent from Los Angeles Times who recently returned from Donetsk airport and worker there with the Ukrainian soldiers who are containing advances and are subject to constant fire on part of the separatists. The Ukrainian soldiers who are holding defense, say that the airport is being fired at by GRAD missiles, mine launchers, automatic weaponry.
Serhiy Loyko says that the new airport terminal is being fired at from two sides, and the old building is suffering attacks from all sides.
This is how he describes what he saw: “Everything that’s happening their, beginning with what this airport looks like now is epic. It seems that this could not happen in reality, that it is a movie, that Spielberg is about to come out and say cut.”
“These ruins are as devastated as the ruined landing strip nearby. There is not a single square meter which would not be full of dozens of bullet holes and shell damage. The ceiling is full of holes, all the walls as well. It’s dark inside, during the day it’s dim, and at night it’s pitch-black,” shares the photo correspondent in an interview to radio station Echo Moskvi which was pressured to remove the interview from its website.
Loyko says that he was impressed by the resilience of the Ukrainian soldiers, as the conditions in which they are holding their defense are very difficult.
“The airport is horribly devastated. It’s extremely cold. There are no heaters there. Wind everywhere. Everyone sneezes, coughs. It is impossible to get warm anywhere. The only thing they can allow themselves is hot tea over open fire. And the kettles are black. Everything is absolutely dark,” shares the photo correspondent.
The significance of Donetsk airport, as military professionals explain, lies in the fact this is the only point the Ukrainian forces have under control which is close to Donetsk. The airport is within just one kilometer of residential areas. The airport also covers the circumventing road around Donetsk.
As NSDC Information Center spokesman Andriy Lyssenko said, in case heavy weaponry is removed to 15 kilometers, as is written in the Minsk accords, the separatists will be forced to tow their heavy weaponry to Lenin square in Donetsk, as Donetsk airport will be the starting point.
Former head of the Foreign Intelligence Service Mykola Malomuzh also considers Donetsk airport strategically significant, and he explains why: “The airport gained military and strategic significance taking into account our military priorities. However, on the other hand, we now have military-political significance. The airport became a symbol of courage and resilience of our country. And it is important for the prospects of liberating the territory of Donetsk oblast, which has been occupied by the ‘DNR’ and representatives of the Russian armed forces.”
“The other side really did view this object as a potential military base, aviation base, and the usage of military transport jets would allow them to supply the mercenaries and the Russian armed forces with new weaponry and new personnel and special ops troops on a daily basis, which is currently done by land,” Malomuzh tells Radio Liberty.
According to Malomuzh, the separatist and Russia, willing to control the airport with the prospect of turning it into an air base, would be able to locate helicopters and storm jets there; and this is an entirely different dimention of combat, which would weaken Ukraine significantly.