Donetsk Airport, February 2005

Donetsk Airport Revisited

[Updated 29-May-2014]

Heavy shooting and a bomb blast rocked the international airport in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk this morning after it was seized by heavily-armed pro-Russian separatist rebels. Gunmen from the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ arrived at the airport shortly after Petro Poroshenko claimed victory in a presidential election that separatists have dismissed.

Today’s reports of smoke and blasts seem a world away from the quiet scenes I snapped at the airport during a brief visit in February 2005.

[NOTE: CNN has reported on 29 May that a separatist spokesman has confirmed that 33 Russian citizens were among those killed when Ukrainian forces waged a counter-offensive to retake the airport, undermining the claim that the uprising is largely homegrown.]

That was just a couple months after newly-elected President Victor Yushchenko made international headlines when his face began peeling off after he ate soup spiked with TCDD, the most potent dioxin in Agent Orange. Like that failed assassination attempt, the facility seemed to still be very much a remnant of the Soviet era, from drop-off to check-in to the chilly stroll across the tarmac to the plane.

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The Donetsk Dandy Dozen – 12 Pics from Ukraine’s 5th Largest City

I haven’t seen Donetsk, the fifth largest city in Ukraine, on too many ”must-see’ lists. It also wasn’t on my list of places where I expected to wake up on 40th birthday. It was early February and it was cold. That you would expect in eastern Ukraine.

morning view on my 40th birthday

I was there to cover a sporting event and the trip wasn’t very long, just three very cold days. This was early 2005, just a few months after recently-elected President Victor Yushchenko made international headlines when his face started peeling off after he had soup spiced up with TCDD, the most potent dioxin in Agent Orange. A guest of honor at the event I was covering was Viktor Yanukovych, Yuschenko’s chief rival. Donetsk was not Yushchenko country.

I had very little time to explore. Most of these snaps were taken during a brief afternoon birthday stroll. There was plenty of signs of construction so I’m sure the city’s changed quite a bit in the seven years since.

And a few more, these all taken at Donetsk International Airport, some of which has been reconstructed since.

But wait! There’s more – a bonus shot from the airport! Fear not: according to local visitors on my flickr stream, the public restrooms don’t look like this anymore.

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__________________
Yes, that’s right.
D is for Donetsk
in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge 2012.
Check out more participants here.

My explanation for this is here.

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Kiev I.

kiev1.jpgKIEV — In transit; not much time in the Ukrainian capital. This time, it was just as well.

Outside was cold, snowing, slightly overcast with a bitter wind in the air; basically living up to the few preconceived notions I had about early February Kiev. Standing on the tarmac in miserable conditions while waiting on a bus to take us to the main terminal was not a particularly inspired version of a welcome wagon.

After not particularly enjoying an outrageously over-priced coffee, I went back out into the frost to head over to Borispyl Airport’s Terminal 1, its domestic gateway. Two men had just finished clearing a path perhaps a meter wide through the inter-terminal walkway, using a pair of make-shift wooden shovels. The security personnel at Terminal 1 were predictably bored, and not too bothered when my two bags fell with a thud from their short conveyor table onto the entryway’s puddles of melted muddied snow. They were equally nonplussed while being castigated by a woman whose white fur coat received the same conveyor treatment. I can’t remember the words she was screaming at the man, working that x-ray machine with a sullen indifference. But I wish I did. They certainly added some color to the otherwise gray atmosphere. I think most of them began with a ‘g’. Or maybe it was ‘t’?

At the far left of the main entry sat a small souvenir stand, rife with typical offerings: some books, maps, wall ornaments, souvenir coins, backpack patches, tea cups. The coins, with fine relief etched portraits of recently-elected president Viktor Yushchenko figuring prominently, caught my eye. They were obviously created before his face started peeling off after eating poisoned soup, and I would even have considered buying one had someone actually been working the counter.

To the right of that was a door leading to an empty room, presumably, a no-longer-used reception room. The sign’s English translation read: “Hall of Expectation.”

Some time ago, I decided that a reasonable credo to live by was, “No expectations, no disappointments.” I decided against wandering into that empty room.