First Battle of Donetsk Airport

Last updated

First Battle of Donetsk Airport
Part of the War in Donbas
Donetsk Airport.jpg
Donetsk Airport before its destruction
Date26–27 May 2014 (1 day)
Donetsk International Airport
Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine
Result Ukrainian victory
Flag of Ukraine.svg  Ukraine

Flag of Donetsk People's Republic.svg  Donetsk People's Republic

Commanders and leaders
Maksym Shapoval Unknown
Units involved

Ensign of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.svg Armed Forces of Ukraine:

Emblema MVD Ukrainy.svg Internal Affairs Ministry:

Flag of Donbass People's Militia.svg Donbas People's Militia:

Great emblem of the 141st Motorized Regiment.svg Kadyrovites
  • Unknown number of troops
200 fighters [6]
Casualties and losses
None [7] 33–50 killed [8]
43 wounded [6]
2 civilians killed [8]

The First Battle of Donetsk Airport took place between fighters associated with the Donetsk People's Republic and Ukrainian government forces that took place at Donetsk International Airport on 26–27 May 2014, as part of the war in Donbas that began after the 2014 Ukrainian revolution. [9] A second battle broke out at the airport on 28 September 2014.



In February 2014, Russia started the Russo-Ukrainian war by annexing Ukraine's Crimea. In April 2014 Russia began organizing pro-Russian protesters and insurgents in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine. This resulted in Donetsk People's Republic, where insurgents captured and occupied numerous government buildings, towns, and territories in the region. [10] In Donetsk city itself, many government buildings were under separatist control. Donetsk International Airport remained outside of insurgent control.


During the morning of 26 May, pro-Russian fighters captured the terminal buildings of Donetsk International Airport, and demanded the withdrawal of government forces from the area. [11] [6] They also blocked off the road to the airport. Soon after, the National Guard of Ukraine issued an ultimatum to the insurgents, which said that they should surrender immediately. This was rejected, causing paratroopers to launch an assault on the airport, accompanied by airstrikes against pro-Russian positions. [12] Attack helicopters were also used to target insurgent anti-aircraft guns. [13] Lorries with Donetsk reinforcements were seen heading towards the airport. [14] As evening fell, government forces pushed the Donetsk fighters out. [15] They then launched a counterattack that was repelled by government forces. [16] Sporadic gunfire was heard during the night, making it unclear if government soldiers were in full control of the airport. [15]

The next day, both Ukrainian and pro-Russian leaders confirmed that Ukrainian forces were in full control of the airport, [7] but by mid-morning, machine gun fire could still be heard on one of the main roads leading to the airport. Insurgents built barricades on the road to the airport. [17] [18] Donetsk mayor Oleksandr Lukyanchenko urged all residents to stay in their homes. [19] During the fighting, Druzhba Arena, home of the Kontinental Hockey League team HC Donbass, was ransacked by pro-Russian insurgents, who looted the building, destroyed surveillance equipment, and set it on fire. [7] [20]

In the days following the battle, anger toward the Ukrainian government grew among some local residents. According to one resident, many people were thinking of joining the insurgency if government military operations continued. [21] Sporadic fighting also continued, with at least one insurgent being killed in a firefight on 29 May. Six other insurgents died on 31 May, after they attempted to retrieve the bodies of their comrades at the site of the airport battle. [22]


Mayor of Donetsk Oleksandr Lukyanchenko said the death toll in the clashes stood at forty, almost all of them separatist insurgents, as well as two civilians. [23] The city morgue reported a death toll of thirty-three insurgents and two civilians. [8] Forty-three insurgents were wounded. [6] DPR leaders Alexander Borodai and Denis Pushilin put the death toll at 100, with half being insurgents and the other half being civilians. [24] [25] This number was considered inflated by the Ukrainian government, and an attempt to lure Russia to intervene in the Donbas. [26] Ukrainian officials reported no losses. [7] 15–35[ citation needed ] of the insurgents were reportedly killed in a single incident when two lorries carrying wounded fighters away from the airport were ambushed in a friendly-fire incident by the Vostok Battalion, which confused them for Ukrainian forces [27] [28] [29] (separatist "prime minister" Aleksander Boroday announced that they had been ambushed by Ukrainian ground forces and hit by airstrikes). [28] Thirty-four of the dead insurgents were Russian nationals and Donetsk insurgents claimed the bodies were returned to Russia. [30] It was later revealed the bodies were returned covertly to hide the fact that they were Russian, eventually ending up in a Rostov-on-Don morgue in the Russian Federation. [31]

Among the dead on the pro-Russian side were former Russian Airborne Troops of the 45th regiment special forces, [31] Soviet–Afghan War veterans, [31] and world kick-boxing champion Nikolai Leonov who was a native of Dnipropetrovsk.[ citation needed ]

Chechen involvement

It was claimed and later verified that Kadyrovtsy came to Donetsk to fight alongside the insurgents. [3] Although Kadyrov denied that he sent Chechens to Donetsk,[ citation needed ] one Chechen fighter claimed that Kadyrov had given them an order to go to Ukraine. [3]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Donetsk International Airport</span> Airport near Donetsk, Ukraine

Donetsk Sergei Prokofiev International Airport is a former airport located 10 km (6.2 mi) northwest of Donetsk, Ukraine, that was destroyed in 2014 during the war in Donbas. It was built in the 1940s, rebuilt in 1973, and then again from 2011 to 2012 for Euro 2012. In 2013, during its last full year of operation, it handled more than a million passengers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2014 pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine</span>

From the end of February 2014, in the aftermath of the Euromaidan and the Revolution of Dignity, which resulted in the ousting of Russian-leaning Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, demonstrations by Russian-backed, pro-Russian, and anti-government groups took place in major cities across the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine. The unrest, which was supported by Russian military and intelligence, belongs to the early stages of the Russo-Ukrainian War.

The following lists events that happened in 2014 in Russia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Russian separatist forces in Ukraine</span> Pro-Russian paramilitary groups in eastern Ukraine

Russian separatist forces in Ukraine, primarily the People's Militias of the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk People's Republic (LPR), were pro-Russian paramilitaries in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. They were under the overall control of the Russian Federation, and were also referred to as Russian proxy forces. They were active during the war in Donbas (2014–2022), the first stage of the Russo-Ukrainian War. They then supported the Russian Armed Forces against the Ukrainian Armed Forces during the 2022 Russian invasion. In September 2022, Russia annexed the DPR and LPR, and began integrating the paramilitaries into its armed forces. They are designated as terrorist groups by the government of Ukraine.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Siege of Sloviansk</span> 2014 siege during the Donbas war

The siege of Sloviansk was an operation by the Armed Forces of Ukraine to recapture the city of Sloviansk in Donetsk Oblast from pro-Russian insurgents who had seized it on 12 April 2014. The city was taken back on 5 July 2014 after shelling from artillery and heavy fighting. The fighting in Sloviansk marked the first military engagement between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces in the Donbas War.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">War in Donbas</span> 2014–2022 war between Ukraine and Russia

The war in Donbas, or Donbas war, was a phase of the Russo-Ukrainian War in the Donbas region of Ukraine. The war began 12 April 2014, when a fifty-man commando unit headed by Russian citizen Igor Girkin seized Sloviansk in Donetsk oblast. The Ukrainian military launched an operation against them. It continued until it was subsumed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Battle of Kramatorsk</span> 2014 battle in the Donbas war

A series of armed skirmishes and confrontations between the Armed Forces of Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists affiliated with the Donetsk People's Republic took place from 12 April until 5 July 2014, and is known as the Battle of Kramatorsk.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Battle of Mariupol (2014)</span> 2014 battle in the war in Donbas

During the 2014 pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine in the aftermath of the Revolution of Dignity, the city of Mariupol, in Donetsk Oblast, saw skirmishes break out between Ukrainian government forces, local police, and separatist militants affiliated with the Donetsk People's Republic. Government forces withdrew from Mariupol on 9 May 2014 after heavy fighting left the city's police headquarters gutted by fire. These forces maintained checkpoints outside the city. Intervention by Metinvest steelworkers on 15 May 2014 led to the removal of barricades from the city centre, and the resumption of patrols by local police. Separatists continued to operate a headquarters in another part of the city until their positions were overrun in a government offensive on 13 June 2014.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Battle in Shakhtarsk Raion</span> July–August 2014 battle of the war in Donbas

The Battle in Shakhtarsk Raion began on 16 July 2014, when the Armed Forces of Ukraine attempted to cut off the Russian backed separatists’ supply lines from Russia. Fighting broke out around the towns of Marynivka, Dmytrivka, Stepanivka, Shakhtarsk, as well as the strategic hill of Savur-Mohyla. It later spread to the cities of Snizhne and Torez. While the battle was in progress, a civilian passenger airliner, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, was shot down near Hrabove on 17 July. Amidst a wide counter-offensive by the Russian proxy forces and their Russian backers across Donbas, government troops were forced out of Shakhtarsk Raion on 26 August.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Battle of Horlivka</span> 2014 battle in the Donbas war

The Battle of Horlivka began when the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) attempted to recapture the city of Horlivka, in Donetsk Oblast, from separatist insurgents affiliated with the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) on 21 July 2014.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Second Battle of Donetsk Airport</span> 2014–2015 battle during the Donbas war

The Second Battle of Donetsk Airport was an engagement between the Ukrainian military and Russian military and its proxy forces of the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) during the War in Donbas. An earlier battle in May 2014 had left Donetsk International Airport in Ukrainian control. Despite a ceasefire agreement, the Minsk Protocol, in place since 5 September 2014, fighting broke out between the warrying parties on 28 September 2014.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Arsen Pavlov</span> Russian Donetsk separatist soldier (1983–2016)

Arsen Sergeyevich Pavlov, known by his nom de guerreMotorola (Моторола), was a Russian militant known for murdering and torturing Ukrainian POWs, who led the Sparta Battalion up until his death in a blast on his apartment in Donetsk.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Special forces of Ukraine</span> Ukrainian special operation units

Ukraine inherited its special forces (Spetsnaz) units from the remnants of the Soviet armed forces, GRU and KGB units. Ukraine now maintains its own Spetsnaz structure under the control of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and under the Ministry of Defence, while the Security Service of Ukraine maintains its own Spetsnaz force, the Alpha group. In 2016 the Special Operations Forces were created as an independent branch of the Armed Forces of Ukraine formed only by special forces units.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shyrokyne standoff</span> 2015 battle in the Donbas war in Ukraine

The Shyrokyne standoff was a battle for the control of the strategic village of Shyrokyne, located approximately 11 km (6.8 mi) east of Mariupol city limits, between Ukrainian forces led by the Azov Regiment, and Russian-backed separatists, between February and July 2015. It was part of the larger war in Donbas. On 10 February 2015, the Azov Regiment launched a surprise offensive against pro-Russian separatists associated with the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) with the aim of pushing the separatist forces away from Mariupol city limits. The village is located just 10 km (6.2 mi) from the Ukrainian-controlled city of Mariupol, and was used as a launching point for separatist attacks on the city, which served as the administrative centre of Donetsk Oblast whilst DPR forces control Donetsk city. Fighting continued until 3 July 2015, when DPR forces unilaterally withdrew from Shyrokyne. Subsequently a cease-fire was declared in the area.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Special Operations Forces (Ukraine)</span> Military unit

The Special Operations Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are the special forces of Ukraine and one of the seven branches of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, with headquarters in Kyiv.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Timeline of the war in Donbas (2014)</span>

This is a timeline of the war in Donbas for the year 2014.

The combatants of the war in Donbas included foreign and domestic forces.

The Russo-Ukrainian War has seen foreign volunteers participate on both sides of the conflict. Most foreign fighters joined the conflict during one of two waves. The first wave happened from 2014 to 2019 during the War in the Donbas and consisted of approximately 17,241 foreign fighters. The second wave is considered by researchers to have been much larger and began in 2022 after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.


  1. "Volunteers or paid fighters? The Vostok Battalion looms large in war with Kiev". The Guardian. 6 June 2014. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  2. "Meet the Russian Orthodox Army, Ukrainian Separatists' Shock Troops". NBC News. 16 May 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 Weaver, Courtney (27 May 2014). "Chechens join pro-Russians in battle for east Ukraine". Financial Times. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
  4. Roth, Andrew; Sabrina Tavernisemay (27 May 2014). "Russians Revealed Among Ukraine Fighters". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
  5. Bender, Jeremy (28 May 2014). "Chechen Militants Are Now Spreading Chaos in Ukraine". Business Insider. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Walker, Shaun (27 May 2014). "Ukraine says it controls Donetsk airport after fighting leaves dozens dead". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
  7. 1 2 3 4 "Fighting rages in eastern Ukraine city, dozens dead". Reuters. 27 May 2014.
  8. 1 2 3 Roberts, Jim; Christopher Miller (28 May 2014). "Ukraine Government Claims Control of Airport; Up to 50 Separatists Are Killed". Mashable. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  9. "Donetsk Airport Cyborgs". Ukraine Today. 15 October 2014. Retrieved 15 October 2014.
  10. "Cyborgs at Little Stalingrad: A Brief History of the Battles of the Donetsk Airport, 26 May 2014 to 21 January 2015". AUSA. 30 April 2019. Retrieved 23 March 2024.
  11. "Ukraine crisis: pro-Russian rebels seize Donetsk airport". The Daily Telegraph. 26 May 2014. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
  12. MacDonald, Alastair; Yannis Behrakis (27 May 2014). "Battle at Donetsk airport; new Ukraine leader says no talks with 'terrorists'". Reuters. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  13. "Ukrainian army battles Kremlin-backed separatists in Donetsk; at least one civilian killed in crossfire". Kyiv Post. 26 May 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  14. Paton Walsh, Nick; Ralph Ellis (26 May 2014). "Ukrainian troops, separatists battle at Donetsk airport". CNN. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
  15. 1 2 Tavernise, Sabrina; Andrew Roth (26 May 2014). "Ukraine Forces Appear to Oust Rebels From Airport in East". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  16. "Ukraine crisis: Stand-off amid fight for Donetsk airport". BBC News. 27 May 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  17. "East Ukraine city largely calm after battle, rebels seek Russian help". Worldbulletin. 28 May 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  18. Walker, Shaun (27 May 2014). "Ukraine says it controls Donetsk airport after fighting leaves dozens dead". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  19. "Ukraine crisis: Dozens reported killed in eastern fighting". CBC News. Associated Press. 27 May 2014. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
  20. Babiak, Mat (27 May 2014). "Pro-Russian Gunmen Loot & Torch HC Donbass Arena". Euromaidan PR. Archived from the original on 30 May 2014.
  21. Luhn, Alec (30 May 2014). "Poroshenko vows to punish rebels who shot down Ukraine helicopter". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  22. Grove, Thomas; Gabriela Baczynska (31 May 2014). "Six Ukrainian separatists killed around Donetsk airport". Reuters. Archived from the original on 11 April 2015. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  23. Zawadzki, Sabina; Gabriela Baczynska (27 May 2014). "Fighting rages in Ukraine eastern city, dozens dead". Reuters. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  24. Vladimir Radyuhin (27 May 2014). "Over 100 killed in fierce Kiev onslaught". The Hindu. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  25. Peter Leonard (27 May 2014). "Dozens dead, morgues overflowing after siege turns one of Ukraine's largest airports into a war zone". National Post. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  26. Burnbaum, Michael; Fredrick Kunkle (27 May 2014). "Ukraine's military retakes airport seized by rebels in Donetsk". The Washington Post. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  27. Kofman, Michael; Migacheva, Katya; Nichiporuk, Brian; Tkacheva; Radin, Andrew; Oberholtzer, Jenny (18 April 2017). Lessons from Russia's Operations in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. Rand Corporation. p. 43. ISBN   9780833096067.
  28. 1 2 Shakirov, Mumin (13 July 2014). "Interview: I Was A Separatist Fighter In Ukraine". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
  29. El Murid (26 May 2014). "Недели три назад я разговаривал с людьми, которые непосредственно участвовали в одной из самых неудачных операций донецкого ополчения - попытке захвата аэропорта в Донецке. По моей просьбе они составили текст, в котором относительно подробно описали происходившее с точки зрения непосредственного участника. Ниже этот текст, целиком, как пришел" [Three weeks ago, I spoke with people who were directly involved in one of the most unsuccessful operations of Donetsk militia—an attempt to capture the airport in Donetsk. Per my request, they put together a text in which they describe in detail what was happening from the point of view of a direct participant. Below is this text, in full.]. El_Murid (blog). Retrieved 11 September 2019.
  30. "Donetsk militants send 34 pro-Russian separatists bodies to Russia – leader". Kyiv Post. 30 May 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  31. 1 2 3 Kostyuchenko, Elena (27 June 2014). "Battle for Donetsk airport: the story of one Russian fighter". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 July 2014.

48°04′30″N37°43′32″E / 48.0750°N 37.7256°E / 48.0750; 37.7256