Day of Remembrance of the Defenders of the Donetsk Airport in Ukraine Date in the current year: January 20, 2024

Day of Remembrance of the Defenders of the Donetsk Airport in Ukraine The Day of Remembrance of the Defenders of the Donetsk Airport, also known informally as Cyborg Remembrance Day, is a Ukrainian memorial day observed annually on January 20. It is dedicated to everyone who defended the Donetsk airport from Russia-backed separatists from May 26, 2014 to January 22, 2015.

The defense of the Donetsk airport was an episode of the war in eastern Ukraine, which began when the Russian military invaded the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine in April 2014, following the annexation of Crimea by Russia, a series of pro-Russian rallies in Ukraine, and the proclamation of the state sovereignty of the unrecognized Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR). 

The battle for the Donetsk airport is considered one of the bloodiest battles of the war in eastern Ukraine. It was fought between Ukrainian troops backed by volunteer formations, and pro-Russian separatists backed by the Russian Armed Forces, although Russia denied its involvement, claiming it was a civil war.

The first attempts to establish control over the Donetsk International Airport, whose inner perimeter was guarded by units of the 3rd Special Forces Regiment of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, were made by separatist militants on the night of May 25-26, 2014. The separatists wanted to seize the control tower and take control of the runway to prevent the Ukrainian army from transporting military supplies by air.

The separatists’ vanguard managed to capture the new terminal of the airport. When their reinforcements arrived, they demanded that the airport defenders lay down their arms and surrender, but it didn’t happen. After that, the Ukrainian armed forces and volunteer formations held the airport for 242 days

After the first big battle in May, the confrontation resumed with renewed vigor after the signing of the Minsk agreements in September 2014. The separatists backed by Russian mercenaries stormed the airport several times, but the Ukrainian defenders managed to hold the line. 

As a result of numerous assaults and constant shelling, literally nothing remained of the buildings of the Donetsk airport; even the control tower, which had become a symbol of resistance, collapsed. Russian propaganda nicknamed the airport defenders “cyborgs”, implying that ordinary people would not be able to hold the line for so long.

On January 19, 2015, the separatists blew up the new terminal for the first time, and then again on January 20. Only sixteen defenders were left alive inside the building; they were forced to surrender. The Ukrainian side subsequently recaptured the territory of the airport and was able to pick up the bodies of the dead. Those who had been captured returned to Ukraine as part of a prisoner exchange.

“The cyborgs held; it is the concrete that did not hold,” – this is what they said about the defenders of the Donetsk airport. To honor their bravery and sacrifice, the Minister of Defense of Ukraine and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine officially established the Day of Remembrance of the Defenders of the Donetsk Airport in 2021. Before that, an unofficial Cyborg Remembrance Day had been observed by the cyborgs, their families and friends, and everyone who wanted to honor their feat.

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Day of Remembrance of the Defenders of the Donetsk Airport , Cyborg Remembrance Day, observances in Ukraine, war in eastern Ukraine