(QHA) -

Rebels in Ukraine have taken over Donetsk Airport, killing dozens of Ukrainian troops, members of the army's volunteer support network said on Jan. 21. 

Ukrainian troops’ defense of the airport, besieged since September, had become a symbol of pride for Ukrainians, with its occupants immortalized as 'the cyborgs'.

George Tuka, who heads the People's Home Front volunteer group, posted on Facebook that Ukraine’s General Staff had devised a plan to surround the airport and push the insurgents farther away from it, but when Ukrainian troops clashed with rebels in Donetsk itself separatists seized the first and third floors of the airport’s new terminal, Kyivpost reports.

Ukrainian troops remained on the second floor, but when the ceiling above them collapsed some of the soldiers were killed, Tuka said. Others were captured by insurgents or withdrew from the airport, he added. 

“Today 37 heroes were killed at the airport,” Vladimir Sergeyev, another volunteer who helps provide equipment and supplies to the Ukrainian army, wrote on Facebook. “Many of them were finished off by Chechen scumbags. Forgive us, brothers! We did our best! Heroes do not die!” 

The report follows announcements by Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council that Russia had sent several battalions of regular troops to Donbas.

President Petro Poroshenko announced on Jan. 21 that over 2,000 Russian servicemen had recently crossed the border into Ukraine.