Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists have been fighting battles across Ukraine for almost a year, killing upwards of 6000 soldiers and civilians in the process. It’s been a bloody war, one which has completely rocked the country.
Nowhere is that more apparent than at the Sergey Prokofiev International Airport in Donetsk, Ukraine. After months of sustained battles, with both sides attempting to gain control of the facility, it has been complete decimated and reduced to rubble.
Yet, the conflicts rages on. When looking at the photos of the airport, it’s hard to see what there’s left to fight for.
Originally built in the 1940's and renovated multiple times over the decades, the Donetsk airport was once an impressive complex.
Most recently, it was improved for a reported $1 billion in preparation for the UEFA soccer championships hosted in Ukraine in 2012.
Now, after 10 months of intense fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia rebels, the airport has been decimated to rubble.
The entire city of Donetsk has become one of the most contested and violent areas in all of Ukraine because of its strategic location to Ukraine and Russia.
The airport is of special interest to both sides due to it's potential to be used for airlifting supplies, especially deliveries from Russia to it's rebel counterparts in Ukraine.
The entire airport is perfect for a military stronghold, as well. Soldiers utilise both its communication towers and its massive network of underground tunnels which allow them to travel and move supplies without risk of being fired upon.
On a broader level, the airport is seen as a symbol of the larger conflict. When fighting for the airport, 'I am sure that we are defending there the whole of Ukraine,' Pertro Poroshenko, president of Ukraine, said in January.
Until recently, the airport was controlled by Ukrainian troops who took fire and shelling from rebel troops at all hours of the day and night.
Debris and rubble are everywhere you look. There's even reports of trees being completely stripped of their branches due to shrapnel from shelling attacks.
The death toll estimates the total deaths in the conflict between Ukrainian and rebel forces since April of 2014 to now be more than 6,000, according to a United Nations Human Rights Office report earlier this month.
'Should this trend continue, this would represent a new and very deadly chapter in this conflict, expanding the areas where the rule of law and the protection of human rights are effectively absent,' UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said.
And it seems that things are becoming worse. After a lull in conflict in December, the UN reports that violence has ramped up in January and February, with an increased death toll due to 'indiscriminate shelling.'
In mid-January, pro-Russian rebels staged a major attack on the airport, finally seizing complete control of whart was left of the airport's terminals from the government forces who previously occupied it.
Those Ukrainian soldiers who were not killed were kept as captives and were given the gruesome task of finding the dead bodies of their fellow fighters beneath the rubble of the devastated buildings.
One separatist commander told Reuters, 'It's not our job to look for dead bodies. It's our job to make them.'
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