While I do personally believe Russia is assisting these fighters, without evidence to support that belief, it also seems sensible that the separatist fight with Kiev is much larger then Russia's interest alone.The actions of the fascist, technocratic regime in Kiev played a very big role in creating this rebellion. If the rebels have taken the airport in Donetsk- it's a win for the rebels, but, also means the war will kick up a notch or two if it hasn't already. It does seem the rebels have taken the airport at this time.
Qualifiers aside, here is the news.
MOSCOW — Leaders of a Russian-backed rebel movement in eastern Ukraine claimed on Friday to have captured the Donetsk city airport, a symbolically important and long-sought prize, although central government officials denied this was the case.A senior leader for the rebels, the pro-Russian Donetsk People’s Republic, described the fight as the start of a new offensive to push Ukraine out of the east.Despite a cease-fire that was signed on Sept. 5, the sides have fought in the rubble of the airport terminals for months. The rebels have repeatedly claimed to have captured the site, even though Ukrainian forces have been able to hold onto pockets inside the terminal. A major escalation in shelling preceded the latest claim.
If the claim is true, it would signal the first significant territorial advance by the rebels since the signing of the cease-fire pact.
That cease-fire broke down almost immediately, with daily violations. Neither side has been able to claim additional territory since the cease-fire was signed, often making it impossible to ascertain who had started a skirmish or why. An advance, by contrast, would suggest an incontrovertible violation. (According to the NYT's only an advance is a violation of a ceasefire? Delusional! If the shoe was on the other foot, NYT's would be spinning a Kiev advance as justified etc.)
It was unclear, as with so many other of the pro-Russian rebel leadership’s actions, whether the Russian authorities had condoned the advance; (So why mention this at all? Other then to connect Russia with the minutiae?) last fall, German officials had reportedly warned that the capture of the airport would provoke additional sanctions on Russia’s economy, which is struggling.
This was the scene three days ago around the Donetsk Airport
An online statement, the military authorities for the Donetsk People’s Republic said on Friday that “today, we can speak about control over the territory of Donetsk airport and its surroundings.”
A video posted by the Russian news media showed a rebel flag flying over the ruins of the hulking, glass-and-steel main terminal of the Sergei Prokofiev International Airport.
The air-traffic control tower collapsed this week, in a sign of the intensity of the artillery fire striking the site.Despite the claims, the statement conceded that Ukrainian forces remained on airport territory. “There are still about 10 Ukrainian soldiers left in the new terminal, but they have ceased to offer resistance,” it said.
The leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, said on Thursday after a conference with Ukrainian Army officers about the airport that he intended to press an offensive and return territory lost to government forces. That territory lies outside the partially demarcated line of control established in the Sept. 5 agreement.
“They are on territory which they do not control and will never be under their control,” Mr. Zakharchenko said of the Ukrainian Army, in remarks later posted online.“We will go further, to Slavyansk, to Kramatorsk, and so on,” he said, referring to Ukrainian-controlled towns now far from the front.
Ukrainian officials acknowledged the intensification of the assault on the airport but denied that they had lost control of what has been the central government’s toehold in the rebel capital, Donetsk. “Our guys are still defending it,” Denis Ermak, a military analyst with the Dnipro-1 battalion, said in a telephone interview.
The battle for airport ruins is a harrowing, close-quarter fight that has stretched on for months.
The main terminal, built for the Euro 2012 soccer tournament, is a battered and booby-trapped wreck where rebel fighters control the third floor and above.Ukrainian forces hold the second and first floors, and access to subterranean tunnels originally laid for communications cables.The rebel forces are aided, if not led, by Russian special forces, in the Ukrainian view, a charge that Russia denies.
Mr. Ermak said that the Russian-backed side has now seized a surface-level supply route into the terminal building and raised a flag over it, while not actually controlling it. The Ukrainian Army can still supply those inside through the tunnels, he said, but the defense of the airport is becoming more tenuous by the day.
“They fight through holes in the floor, with booby traps, by blowing up walls and in the stairwells,” he said of the combat in the building. “The situation is difficult. They want to show the world they have taken the airport, but they have not. Our guys are still defending it. Every day and every night there are attacks.”Warning- paragraph below does not seem credible
Why don't I believe the "thermobaric' or vaccum bomb story? Directly prior to this paragraph the NYT's tells the reader this is close quarter fighting that has gone on for months and then suddenly there is this type of weapon being employed? Why would the separatists use this weapon in such close quarter fighting? Unless they wish to kill a whole bunch of their own fighters?In the past three days, the separatists have also deployed a new weapon not seen openly before in eastern Ukraine, called the Buratino, or the Pinocchio, which fires powerful thermobaric, or “vacuum bomb,” rockets from a tank chassis. Only Russia could have provided them this weapon, he said. Russia has denied providing any weapons to the east.
So.... not credible in my opinion.
Back to NYT's
A report posted on Thursday by LifeNews, a Russian news agency with a strong pro-rebel slant, showed separatist fighters moving amid the rubble of the airport’s new terminal, firing assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades in what the report called a “sweep” of the building to flush out the final Ukrainian holdouts.
At least one rebel frontline commander on Friday conceded that the airport was not yet captured, but he said that it would be soon. “Another day or two and the airport will be ours,” said the rebel commander, who uses the nickname Zhora, in a telephone interview.