The fog of war drifted over the battle for East Ukraine Thursday as the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian separatists both claimed to be winning the battle for the remains of the new terminal at Donetsk airport. While rebels have made significant gains over the last two days, even managing to enter the airport on Wednesday, conflicting reports from the Russian government-owned Tass news agency and the independently owned Kyiv Post have caused confusion.
The so-called second battle of Donetsk airport has been raging since September, with the Ukrainian military occupying the new terminal since winning it from rebel forces in late May in the first battle. However, a renewed surge on the airport using heavy artillery fire and tanks has pushed Ukrainian forces back.
Tass reported Thursday that most of the Ukrainian Armed Forces that were occupying the airport had withdrawn, leaving behind a few small units to hold positions. However, pro-Russian separatists have offered a number of opportunities for Ukrainian military units to leave the airport.
“We’re granting an opportunity to soldiers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces to leave the airport and the areas adjoining it in order to prevent more unnecessary victims in their ranks,” said a spokesman for the press service of the defense ministry of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.
However, a few hours after the Tass information was released, the Kyiv Post published a short article stating that new terminal at Donetsk airport was still under control of the Ukrainian military, citing the press center for anti-terrorist operations in East Ukraine as a source.
The truth it seems might be something in between after an Associated Press reporter saw a pro-Russian flag hoisted above the new terminal, suggesting that rebels had taken some control of the airport. But the reporter also said that fighting appeared to be continuing inside the airport.