EERIE drone footage has captured a rare glimpse inside a war-torn Euros stadium in Russian-held Ukrainian territory.
Opened in 2009, the £320million stadium in the city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine was home to national giants and reigning champions Shakhtar Donetsk.
The ghost ground once played host to Champions League games and five major matches in the Euros 2012, including two of England’s group stage fixtures and the semi-final between Portugal and eventual-winners Spain.
It was one of eight venues used for UEFA championships, which was jointly hosted by Ukraine and Poland.
With a capacity of 52,000, it was the third-largest stadium in the tournament.
But since 2014, The Donbass Arena has been out of bounds since Russian forces invaded the region.
The new Ukrainian drone footage reveals a stadium that has been ravaged by war – haunting, empty, and a shell of its former glory.
The UAV soars high above the stadium just catching a peek inside, where ‘Donetsk’ is still spelt out in huge white letters.
Mysterious white stuff covers the darkened, overgrown grass and the once bright red seats have turned into a faded grey.
The arena was heavily damaged by artillery shelling in August 2014 as Putin’s troops and pro-Russian separatists battled Ukrainian forces in the area.
By this point, the club had already moved out of its home, relocating more than 600 miles west to Lviv, far from the front line.
In October 2014, further artillery shelling blasted holes right through the stadium from east to west.
The fighting continued on and off for years, making it unsafe for Shakhtar to return.
Then the long abandoned stadium suffered further destruction when it was caught in the crossfires in March 2022 following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Russian state TV shared footage of shell craters just metres from the stadium, as well as a number of shattered windows on its outside.
In June 2022, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky commemorated a decade since the site hosted the 2012 football extravaganza.
“Exactly 10 years ago this day marked the start of EURO 2012 which brought together all Ukrainians, Poles and the vast majority of Europeans,” he said.
After a decade of war, it now lies in ruins – bomb-blitzed and abandoned – with smashed turnstiles and shattered glass exteriors.
The floodlights have been out of power for years, the racks inside the club shop lie empty and the pitch has been destroyed.
It seems unlikely the stadium will be used again, with Donetsk being illegally claimed as part of Russia by Putin in September.
“It’s only been 10 years and it feels like being in another world,” Zelensky said.
“10 years ago, our Donetsk was a strong, proud and developed city. And then Russia came. Now it’s a ghost town that has lost most people, thousands of lives, and absolutely all prospects.”
He also railed against the rumours that illegally-appointed Russian authorities in Donbas were planning to create a separate football league and use the stadium for it.
The teams were set to include players from the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic, annexed Crimea and Georgia.
But for now, the abandoned venue remains a frightening reminder of the fragility of peace in Europe.
Elsewhere in Ukraine, the Tsentralnyi football stadium in Mykolaiv has been abandoned since 2021 and a Russian missile blew a huge chunk out of it last year.
The ground is now covered in a forest of trees and is barely recognisable after more than 30 years of neglect – the site was seized again by Russian forces in 2022.The Donbass Arena in its heyday as it hosted five games in the Euros 2012[/caption] Years of neglect and the effects of war have turned this stadium into a football graveyard[/caption] A firefighter works at the site as the stadium got caught up in renewed shelling in Donetsk[/caption]