(QHA) -

Ukrainian authorities are denying claims by pro-Russian separatists that rebel forces have seized control of the international airport in Donetsk.

Vladyslav Seleznyov, spokesman for the General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces, said on January 16 that "the new terminal at the Donetsk airport is under the control of the forces of the antiterrorist operation."

This comes as the rebels announced on January 15 that they had taken control of the terminal's ruins, and an AP reporter saw a separatist flag raised above the building on the same day amid continuing hostilities.

The airport is in ruins and has long been closed, but it has been the site of some of the fiercest fighting in the conflict that has killed more than 4,700 people since April.

The airport has become a symbol of Ukraine's fight against separatists, as Ukrainian soldies who have held on to it despite persistent rebel attack are called "cyborgs".

The U.S. State Department said on January 14 that the intense fighting around the airport was among the "latest egregious violations of the commitments made by the Russian-backed separatists" under a September 5 cease-fire plan.