Kiev: The Ukrainian government has partially withdrawn troops from Donetsk airport after months of bitter fighting with independence-seeking insurgents, a defence ministry statement said Thursday.
"Yesterday, 20 troops of the Ukrainian armed forces left the terminals of the airport because their positions were destroyed and exposed to direct fire," Xinhua quoted the statement as saying.
According to the statement, six government soldiers were killed and 16 others wounded defending the key facility since Wednesday. A part of the airport was still under control of the government forces Thursday morning.
"Fierce fighting around the airport in Donetsk continues," the statement said.
Meanwhile, volunteer battalion Azov, which fights against rebels alongside thed Ukrainian army, said that the insurgents have taken full control over the airport.
"The airport is lost. The enemy`s offensive is now underway on the northern and southern directions," Azov commander Andriy Biletsky was quoted by the battalion`s press service as saying.
Ukrainian military spokesman Leonid Matukhin gave no information on whether the airport was abandoned by the government forces.
"I can not officially confirm or deny the information about the pullout of our troops from the airport," Matukhin told local media.
Initially, the rebels have claimed to have captured the airport Jan 16, but the Ukrainian authorities denied the reports of the airport takeover.
The insurgents seized the international airport in Donetsk in mid-May, but the Ukrainian forces recaptured a part of the airport few days later and fully took control of the airport in July after heavy battles, in which dozens of combatants were killed.