The PJ Tatler

VIDEO: Huge Explosions At Donetsk Airport, Key Battleground In Ukraine

UPDATE (3:45 p.m.): The Interpreter blog offers the following analysis, closed by the key observation that the shelling appears to have come from Russian-backed areas — which would conflict with the Donetsk People’s Republic’s claim that they had captured the airport earlier today, as reported by the NY Times:

The video is dramatic. First there is a strange noise, then a massive series of explosions on the horizon. The title of this video suggests a massive airstrike has just hit Donetsk. It was shot within the last hour.

That scenario, however, is unlikely. It’s not clear what payload a single aircraft could deliver that would cause that many explosions spread out over a very wide area. The roar we hear before the explosions is likely the sound of rockets traveling through the air, many rockets since this appears to be the result of a multiple-launch-rocket-system, perhaps a Grad strike.

The fact that we hear the rockets before seeing the explosions means that they likely came from behind the camera – territory held by the Russian-backed fighters.

Most of the rockets hit the western half of the airport, and all of those explosions give off about the same amount of light and sound.

However, there are two more things that are odd about this video. The first is that there are several much louder and brighter explosions in the center.

The second is that there are a long series of explosions far off to the right after this initial wave. These explosions are the last of the series, are much fainter flashes, and don’t appear to give off any sound.

So what just happened? Here’s our theory.

A multiple-launch-rocket-system, likely a Grad launcher, struck the airport. This would account for the large amounts of explosions in a tight cluster.

A different weapon fired the shots that hit in the center of the screen. We used a stop watch to time the gap between the light and the sound of these explosions. It took approximately 8.57 seconds for the sound to reach the camera, which means that the explosion was approximately 1.86 miles away. What this means is that those shells are much closer than the ones that hit on the right side of the screen. But it’s also possible, as we see on this map, that they may have hit a series of fuel storage tankers which are near the airport (the same ones filmed by Graham Phillips earlier today). Might that account for the fact that four of the explosions appear to be much larger than the rest? Either way, this indicates a coordinated strike between multiple artillery batteries:


The last set of explosions may also be Grad rockets, but they likely targeted the Ukrainian position near Avdiivka. Interestingly, though, these explosions are much further to the east than we’re used to seeing. Perhaps they missed their target?

Either way, if the Russian-backed fighters are the ones shelling the airport, then it’s another sign that they do not fully control this location.


Russia Today has posted the below security camera video, in which several large explosions begin around the :46 mark.

Earlier today, the NY Times ran an article claiming the Donetsk People’s Republic, a pro-Putin group, announced they had gained control of the airport.

The airport was already in ruins from months of shelling, as per this drone footage also posted today, yet still considered a strategic site:

On the below video posted today by Euronews:

A Ukrainian military spokesman said six of his troops were killed in attacks by separatists in 24 hours of clashes. Another 18 were wounded.

Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko refuted claims that rebels had taken hold of the airport and said they had been repelled completely from around the new terminal, a strategic site in the east of the country.

This tweet comes from Oliver Carroll, a reporter in Ukraine:

There is much other talk on Twitter that the sounds in the above security video just prior to the explosions may be a jet engine, indicating an air strike, but so far there is no confirmation of this:

VIDEO: Recording from #Donetsk which seems to contain sound of a jet before a series of large explosions v @MarQs__

— Conflict News (@rConflictNews) January 16, 2015