Crisis in Ukraine

The cease-fire war in Donetsk

By Gene Thorp and Lazaro Gamio, Published: Oct. 28, 2014

Pro-Russian forces intensified their effort to retake the Donetsk International Airport in late September, only weeks after the cease-fire agreement in Minsk took effect. Fighting has been intense, involving building-to-building firefights, tank engagements and heavy artillery bombardments. Is this just a temporary flare-up that can be resolved, or is it the beginning of a full-fledged renewal of the conflict? The events shown below are derived using satellite imagery, photos and videos posted on the Internet. Related story.

Parts of this interactive feature include sound

The recently remodeled Donetsk International Airport was seized by Rebel troops on May 26. Within hours, Ukrainian forces retook the facility, taking possession of the airport control tower, the old terminal, the new terminal and the surrounding buildings and hangars.

Seizing high ground

Taking advantage of the cease-fire, agreed upon weeks earlier, Rebels take up positions in an apartment building overlooking the airport. In the sheltered parking lot behind the high-rise, they set up a first response medical station and a staging area.

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This video, taken from inside the apartment building, shows a man directing artillery fire toward the airport's tower.

Main assault begins

Rebel infantry, some riding on tanks, advance into the airport grounds and seize hangars, a fuel storage area and outbuildings, pushing the Ukrainian forces back building by building.

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Rebel forces hitch a ride on a tank to the front line.

The Rebels set up artillery pieces in at least four locations, and rake the Ukrainian positions.

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Rebel forces advancing from the train station dive for cover when Ukrainian long-range artillery, stationed miles outside of Donetsk, finds them.

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After being shelled, they set up an artillery piece and return fire.

The advance stalls

Rebels storm the airport control center, police station and hotel, allowing them to put Ukrainian forces in the Old Terminal building in a crosssfire. However, the rebels are unable to advance further.

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A rebel tank fires in the direction of the new terminal from between the recently captured hotel and police station.


On a daily basis, both sides engage in heavy firefights across the barren no man’s land and endure heavy artillery bombardments. Casualties continue to mount even though a cease-fire is still supposedly in effect.

The airport, which was remodeled only a few years ago, lies in ruins from the heavy fighting.

SOURCE: Satellite images from Digital Globe via Google Earth.

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