Attack on Snake Island

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Attack on Snake Island
Part of the
Селище Біле, острів Зміїний (2008).jpg
Snake Island in 2008
Date24–25 February 2022
(1 day)
Location45°15′18″N 30°12′15″E / 45.25500°N 30.20417°E / 45.25500; 30.20417Coordinates: 45°15′18″N 30°12′15″E / 45.25500°N 30.20417°E / 45.25500; 30.20417
Result Russian victory
Belligerents
 Russia  Ukraine
Units involved

 Russian Navy

State Border Guard[1]
Strength

Per Ukraine:

  • 13 border guards

Per Russia:

  • 82 soldiers (24 February)
  • 16 boats (25 February)
Casualties and losses

Per Russia:
None


May attacks
Per Ukraine:
2 patrol boats
1 landing craft
2 surface-to-air missile systems
1 Mi-8 helicopter

Per Ukraine:
1 search and rescue boat seized
13 border guards captured
Per Russia:
6 boats sunk
82 soldiers captured


May attacks
Per Russia:
50+ soldiers killed in counterattack
Attack on Snake Island is located in Black Sea
Attack on Snake Island
Location of Snake Island in the Black Sea

On 24 February 2022, the first day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Snake Island, a Ukrainian island in the Black Sea also known as Zmiinyi Island, was attacked and captured by the Russian Navy, along with its entire garrison. The attack was widely publicized when an audio clip of Russian cruiser Moskva hailing the island's garrison over the radio demanding their surrender and being told "Russian warship, go fuck yourself" (Russian: 'Русский военный корабль, иди на хуй', tr. Russky voyenny korabl, idi na khuy) in response went viral, along with initial inaccurate reports of the garrison's deaths.[2][3] Later on, it emerged that a civilian search and rescue ship trying to evacuate the soldiers was also captured along with the garrison. The ship, its crew, and at least one soldier were subsequently freed in prisoner exchanges.

Background

Snake Island is a rocky island of less than 1Km2 off the southern coast of Ukraine, strategically located 45Km from the coast of Romania and at the southern boundary of Ukrainian territorial waters in the Black Sea.[4][5] The only settlement on the island is Bile, built in 2007.[6]

In August 2021, as Russian forces built up around Ukraine, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy held a press event on the island, during which he said: "This island, like the rest of our territory, is Ukrainian land, and we will defend it with all our might."[5]

Capture

The Russian Navy vessels involved: cruiser Moskva (left) and patrol ship Vasily Bykov
(right).

On 24 February 2022, the first day of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine,[1] Ukrainian State Border Guards announced about 18:00 local time that Snake Island had come under attack by Russian Navy ships.[7] The cruiser Moskva and patrol ship Vasily Bykov bombarded the island with their deck guns.[8]

External video
YouTube logo
video icon ‘Go fuck yourself’, Ukrainian soldiers on Snake Island tell Russian ship – audio on YouTube - via The Guardian

When the Russian warship identified itself and ordered the Ukrainian soldiers stationed on the island to surrender, a soldier later identified as Roman Hrybov[9] replied, "Russian warship, go fuck yourself." (Russian: 'Русский военный корабль, иди на хуй', tr. Russky voyenny korabl, idi na khuy).[10][11] An audio clip of the exchange was first shared by Ukrainian government official Anton Herashchenko,[12] then widely publicized by Ukrayinska Pravda, and later verified as authentic by Ukrainian government sources.[13][14]

One Ukrainian soldier live-streamed the moment that the Russian warship opened fire.[15] Later in the evening, the State Border Guard Service said that communication with the island had been lost.[16] At 22:00 (01:00 Moscow Time, UTC+2), service officials announced that Russian forces had captured the island following a naval and air bombardment that destroyed all infrastructure on the island.[17][18] After the bombardment, a detachment of Russian soldiers landed and took control of Snake Island.[19]

The Russian government reported that on 25 February 2022, a squadron of 16 boats of the Ukrainian Navy attacked Russian vessels off Snake Island, also claiming that it sank six of the Ukrainian boats.[20] The Russian government further accused the United States of providing intelligence support to the Ukrainian squadron during the action. The United States denied any involvement.[21]

On 26 February 2022, Ukrainian authorities announced that the civilian search and rescue ship Sapfir had been captured by the Russian Navy off Snake Island.[22]

Status of Ukrainian soldiers and civilian sailors

Ukrainian government sources initially stated that 13 border guards, representing the entirety of the Ukrainian military presence on the island, were killed after refusing to surrender.[23][24] Zelenskyy announced that the border guards would be posthumously awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine.[11]

Russian defence media presented an alternative version of events, claiming that 82 Ukrainian soldiers had been taken prisoner after surrendering voluntarily,[14] and had been taken to Sevastopol.[25] Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed that the prisoners had been signing pledges promising not to continue military action against Russia, and would be released soon.[26]

The State Border Guard Service of Ukraine later announced that the guards might instead have been captured,[27] based on the Russian reports that they were being held as prisoners of war.[28] On 26 February 2022 it issued a statement saying that they believed "that all Ukrainian defenders of Snake Island may be alive".[29] On 28 February 2022, the Ukrainian Navy posted on its Facebook page that all the border guards of the island were alive and detained by the Russian Navy.[30][31]

Release

On 24 March 2022, Sapfir and 19 Ukrainian civilian sailors were released by Russia in a prisoner exchange. 10 prisoners of war were released in the same exchange, and Ukraine stated that Deputy Prime Minister Vereshchuk was working towards the release of Snake Island prisoners particularly.[32]

On 30 March, it was reported that the soldier who made the remark toward the ship was released in a prisoner exchange, and subsequently awarded a Ukrainian medal.[33]

May counterattacks

From 26 to 30 April OC South claimed strikes on the Russian forces on the island left a control post hit and two anti-aircraft missile complex Strela-10 destroyed as well as 42 Russian soldiers killed.[34][35][36][37]

On 1 May, Ukrainian Air Force Command South claims to have launched an attack on Snake Island that destroyed Russian equipment stationed there. [38]

On 2 May at dawn near the Snake Island in the Black Sea two Russian Raptor patrol and landing boats were sunk by a Baykar Bayraktar TB2 drone. A video footage was released showing Russian Raptor multi-purpose boats being struck by guided bombs followed by explosions and fires on them.[39][40]

On 7 May, Ukraine officials reported and displayed footage of a Russian Serna-class landing craft located in the Black Sea being destroyed near Snake Island by a Ukrainian drone.[41][42] Ukrainian Baykar Bayraktar TB2 drones were used to destroy two Tor surface-to-air missile launchers, one of which was in the process of being unloaded from the Serna-class landing craft, possibly clearing the way for a pair of Ukrainian Su-27s conducting a high-speed, low level bombing run that day;[43][44] satellite photos seem to back up the footage.[45] Later, footage of a Ukrainian drone strike on a Russian helicopter on Snake Island was released,[45][unreliable source?] independently verified by Reuters.[46] Meanwhile, on the same day the Russian Ministry of Defense claimed Russian forces repelled Ukrainian attempts to retake Snake Island, destroying Ukrainian helicopters, planes and drones,[47][46] later adding that Ukraine "lost four aircraft, 10 helicopters, 29 drones, three armoured assault craft" in attempts to reclaim the island. These claims have not been confirmed.[48][49]

On 9 May Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said that Russian army holding the island is an advantage for Ukraine, as they can repeatedly assault Russian targets on the island.[46] The UK Ministry of Defense reported that according to their analysis, Russia was trying to reinforce an exposed garrison on the island, where upon Ukraine had successfully launched drone attacks against resupply vessels and air defenses.[49] The status of the island is critical to both Ukraine and Russia as a military asset.[50]

On 12 May, Ukraine claimed it had attacked Russian logistics ship Vsevolod Bobrov near Snake Island, causing it to catch on fire and be towed back to Sevastopol.[51]

On 23 May, the remains of a Ukrainian Bayraktar TB2, tail number 75 was found in Romanian territorial waters by Romanian authorities. The drone was likely shot down during the Snake Island attacks in early May 2022.[52][53]

Legacy

The Ukrainian border guards' final communication before the attack, "Russian warship, go fuck yourself!", went viral and became a rallying cry for Ukrainians and their supporters around the world.[54] The Week compared the phrase to "Remember the Alamo" from the 19th-century Texas Revolution.[55]

In March 2022, the Ukrainian government announced that a postage stamp honoring the soldiers on Snake Island would be released. In a public vote, Ukrainian artist Boris Groh's design of a Ukrainian soldier standing on a beach and giving the finger to a passing Russian warship received the most votes and was selected.[56]

On 13 April 2022, the warship Moskva that was used in the attack and that the Ukrainians had told to 'go fuck yourself' exploded and burned, according to Ukraine as a result of being hit by two anti-ship missiles fired from offshore in or near Odesa.[57] On April 14, the Russians attempted to tow the damaged ship in the direction of Sevastopol but she ultimately sank before she reached port.[58][59]

See also

References

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