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.