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Memorial Service Held In Kyiv In Honor Of Donetsk Airport Defenders

War veterans attend a church service commemorating the defenders of the Donetsk airport in the eastern Ukrainian conflict with Russia-backed separatists.

A requiem mass was held at St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery in Kyiv on January 21 to honor the dead defenders of the Donetsk airport and all fallen combatants of hostilities.

Attending the memorial service in the Ukrainian capital were war veterans who defended the Donetsk airport from Russia-backed separatists, other combatants in the Donbas conflict, families of fallen soldiers, and volunteers.

The defense of the Sergei Prokofiev Donetsk International Airport lasted 242 days from May 26, 2014 to January 22, 2015 and ended after two of its terminals as well as the dispatcher tower were completely destroyed.

Its defense became an emblem of the fighting spirit of Ukrainians and its defenders, both regular soldiers and volunteer fighters, became known as "cyborgs," a moniker given to them by Russia-backed separatists for their resilience.

A sign is seen at the Donetsk airport, damaged by months of fighting, on February 26, 2015.
A sign is seen at the Donetsk airport, damaged by months of fighting, on February 26, 2015.

The airport defenders have been treated by many Ukrainians as heroes.

Ukraine’s military says 101 soldiers were killed and 440 wounded while defending the airport. Nine combatants are still missing.

Volunteers from the Right Sector, Dnipro-1, Karpatskiy Sich and other such formations also took part in defending the airport.

More than 13,000 people have been killed in the conflict in eastern Ukraine since it began in April 2014.

The Kremlin officially denies that it is a party to the war and describes the events in the Donbas as "an internal Ukrainian conflict."

The Donetsk airport was built ahead of the 2012 European soccer championship that Ukraine co-hosted with Poland. Its estimated cost was $860 million.