By Roman Bochkala, journalist at TV channel “Inter”
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine
All photographs by Sergei Loiko
In connection with the aggravated situation in Donetsk airport… Yes, the airport by now really is mostly piles of twisted metal and concrete dust. The question is, what is the point in holding onto this junk? Is it not better to transfer valuable military personnel to another location of the long front? No, it isn’t.
We must not surrender the airport!
Its importance has long ceased to be engineering or technical. As a transport hub this object is unlikely to interest Ukraine any time soon. For Russia it is another matter. As opposed to, for example, the Luhansk airport, the Donetsk transport hub was built as a single complex, capable of receiving airlines of any type. After 3-4 weeks of intense work it can be made into a functioning field airport. The main thing would be to deploy the runway by putting down special rubber-metallic plates onto a prepared surface. The Russian army has these things. The “foundations” can be the current runway, whose condition is not critical for this purpose. Afterwards it is all technical – deploy a radio-locating station, lighting equipment and the rest. In a day, 2-3 military transport planes like Il-76 can be received there. In emergency mode, but nonetheless.
In addition, from an operational perspective, holding the vast territory of the airport allows us to keep a large area under surveillance. And from a tactical perspective, we are not allowing the enemy to expand its presence. The militants cannot move to Mariinka, nor to Avdiivka, nor to Pisky. Like in chess. Even a pawn may block a queen or a rook from moving. It all depends on the held position.
But the main thing in all this story is that the Donetsk airport has become something sacred, and its defenders have become ‘cyborgs.’ Daredevils with iron wills, who cannot be beaten. And in this sense the Ukrainian authorities are hostages of the valour of these soldiers. Because they really did plan to trade the airport. It was discussed at the highest level, including in the corridors of the Ministry of Defense. Although unofficially. But now these cowardly talks have gone silent. Because it is very strange to exchange one piece of Ukrainian soil for another. The defenders of the airport washed this choice, imposed by politicians, with their blood. Now they are heroes. And this has to be taken into consideration.
What is also important is that the inability to conquer the airport hurts the authority of the terrorist leaders. They are after all holding Donetsk purely by force. And now this force is beginning to be doubted. Even the most die-hard vatniks in Donetsk society have probably had thoughts creeping in: how is it that “our guys” with tanks, artillery, mortars and a significant advantage in manpower, cannot knock out a pitiful handful of “ukrops” who cannot even fight… Yes they can.
Wars are rarely won by the side that retreats. And considering that Ukraine has completely rolled back its offensive anyway, losing the airport is the same as admitting defeat. In this small but very real war.