Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had said last week all 13 Ukrainians were killed in Thursday’s attack on the island.
Despite earlier reports to the contrary, the Ukrainian military now says that soldiers attacked by a Russian warship on Snake Island last week are “alive and well,” though all the infrastructure on the island has been demolished.
According to a post shared to the Ukrainian Navy’s official Facebook page on Monday, officials said, per a translation: “The Marines and frontier guards captured by the Russian occupiers on Snake Island. … are alive and well!”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had said last week all 13 Ukrainians were killed in Thursday’s attack on the island and would be posthumously awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine.
The Navy said in its Monday statement that “Russian propaganda is trying to promote the ‘news’ that the Ukrainian authorities have ‘forgotten’ and ‘buried’ their subordinates.”
According to CNN, officials said the soldiers on the island had initially staved off Russia’s attack but eventually surrendered when they ran out of ammunition.
The Ukrainian military said on social media that a civilian ship “was sent to the island to carry out a humanitarian mission to help the victims” on Saturday, after the initial Russian attack — but, officials claim, those on the ship were “illegally captured by the Russians.”
“The illegal seizure of a non-combatant civilian ship that did not carry out any military tasks is a violation of the rules and customs of war and international humanitarian law,” the Monday post — signed by the Public Relations Service Command of the Navy Of the Armed Forces of Ukraine — read.
Snake Island, also known as Zmiinyi Island, was among the reported targets in the period since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine last week.
Ukrainian soldiers were occupying the island, which is located about 20 miles off shore, when a Russian ship approached and a Russian officer offered a stern warning, according to unverified audio.
In the audio clip of what purportedly took place next, a voice could be heard telling the Ukrainian soldiers: “This is a Russian military warship. I suggest you lay down your weapons and surrender to avoid bloodshed and needless casualties. Otherwise, you will be bombed.”
There was a brief exchange before one Ukrainian soldier allegedly said in response: “Russian warship, go f— yourself.”
According to the military statement released Monday, the Marines on the island “bravely twice repulsed the attacks of the Russian occupiers [but were] were unable to continue defending the island.”
The Ukrainian Navy added that Russian soldiers “completely destroyed the island’s infrastructure: lighthouses, towers, antennas, etc.” and that communication was cut off.
“Repeated attempts to contact the staff and find out their fate were in vain,” the post said. “And the constant shelling by warships and aircraft of the Russian Federation did not allow to deliver aid to the Marines.”
The post continued: “Summing up, we want to add that the enemy has once again demonstrated its essence. And again he proved that there is no faith and truth in his actions and words. And we look forward to our brothers and sisters with all our hearts.”
Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues after the country invaded on Feb. 24, with forces moving from the north, south and east. Details of the attack and the fighting change by the day, but this is the first major land conflict in Europe in decades — and hundreds have already been reported dead or wounded, including more than 100 children.
The invasion, ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, has drawn widespread condemnation around the world and increasingly severe economic sanctions against Russia. Various countries have also pledged aid or military support to Ukraine, whose president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has pleaded for peace talks while urging his country to resist