Ukraine commemorates the Day of Remembrance of the Donetsk Airport Defenders on January 16. National Day of Remembrance of the Defenders of Donetsk Airport was established on the initiative of Ukrainian soldiers who defended this key strategic facility for 242 days.

The battle for the airport lasted from May 26, 2014 to January 22, 2015 and ended after the destruction of the old and new terminals.

During this period, special forces of the 3rd separate regiment, soldiers of the 79th, 80th, 81st, 95th separate airmobile and 93rd separate mechanized brigades, 57th separate motorized infantry brigade, 90th separate airmobile and 74th separate reconnaissance battalions, soldiers of the Dnipro-1 regiment, the Volunteer Ukrainian Corps (DUK) and others fought at the Donetsk airport and Pisky village. Volunteers and medics also took part in the defense of the airport.

The Ukrainian defenders were called “cyborgs” for their resilience and steadfastness. They symbolized courage and commitment to the ideals of a free and independent Ukraine.

Between January 18 and January 21, 2015, 58 “cyborgs” were killed in the bombing of the Donetsk airport terminal by pro-Kremlin forces, so on January 21, it was decided to withdraw Ukrainian soldiers from the new terminal, which was destroyed and unfit for defense.

Defending Donetsk airport, more than 200 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and more than 500 wounded. Many of them were honored with state awards, some posthumously.

“Unbreakable warriors who survived, but the concrete did not. Invincible. Strong. Brave. Our heroes! We remember them. We will take revenge and win,” said Dmytro Lubinets, the Verkhovna Rada Commissioner for Human Rights.

Since April 2014, Donetsk and its vicinity have emerged as significant battlegrounds in the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War. Pro-Russian separatist forces have conflicted with Ukrainian military forces, striving for dominance over the city and its surroundings. Throughout the war, pro-Russian separatist forces have governed the city of Donetsk, establishing it as the focal point of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). The territories in the Donetsk region beyond the city have been contested, with division between the conflicting sides. Notably, Donetsk International Airport took the main stage in 2014, becoming the epicenter of a nearly year-long battle during the war.

As of January 2024, Russia has complete control of the city, with Ukrainian and Russian forces still in combat outside the city.

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 Ukraine’s East. It was built in the 1940s, rebuilt in 1973, and again from 2011 to 2012 for the Euro 2012 football championship. In 2013, during its last full year of operation, it handled more than a million passengers.