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Russian attack destroys ice arena, Ukraine says

Featured image credit: HC Donbass Donetsk

The Ukrainian Ice Hockey Federation (FHU) has announced that Russian missile strikes have destroyed the home arena of leading domestic club HC Donbass Donetsk.

The Altair Arena, located in the city of Druzhkivka, was built in October 2013 under the state-targeted social program ‘Hockey of Ukraine’. HC Donbass Donetsk has called the venue home since 2014, the year pro-Russia separatists formed the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ in the region.

The club, an eight-time Ukrainian Hockey League (UHL) champion since its formation in 2005 and the first domestic team to qualify for the continental Champions Hockey League (CHL) in 2021-22, said the destruction of Altair Arena was the result of two Russian missile strikes in the Druzhkivka area on the evening of January 2.

The FHU said: “With a rocket attack, they completely destroyed the Altair Arena in Druzhkivka, Donetsk region. It is impossible to understand the reason for such a step, because the sports facility was completely empty and could not become a priority military target.”

HC Donbass Donetsk ceased playing at the arena in February 2022, when the current conflict commenced in earnest. The FHU said it had been in the process of moving equipment from the venue to enable ice hockey to be played at another arena in a location where there are no active hostilities.

It added that Altair Arena has become the fifth ice hockey arena to be destroyed during the conflict, also naming the Druzhba venue in Donetsk, arenas in Mariupol and Melitopol, and the Ice Palace in Sievierodonetsk.

Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, referenced the attack in his daily address to the nation yesterday (Tuesday) evening. He said: “Yesterday Russian terrorists destroyed the ice arena in Druzhkivka, Donetsk region, with a missile.

“This ice arena – Altair – started working before the war, when Donbas had a normal life before Russia came. Children trained there. There was a children’s sports school. Hockey competitions were held there. People played sports there, celebrated and just enjoyed life.

“Kramatorsk, Slovyansk, Kostyantynivka, Bakhmut, Pokrovsk, Donetsk, Toretsk and other cities and villages of Donbas – everyone knew what kind of arena it was, and many people visited it. Last year it was used to collect and distribute humanitarian aid.

“The Russian missile against Altair in Druzhkivka is another confession of the terrorist state. It is a confession of what it came to Donbas with and what we will definitely oust from there.”