On February 25 2022, CNN reported that more than a hundred civilians and all military defenders on Snake Island were killed, citing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky:
A Ukrainian soldier on a tiny island in the Black Sea didn’t hold back when threatened with bombing by a Russian warship as Moscow continued its assault on Ukrainian territory.
According to a purported audio exchange, as the Russians approached Snake Island, also known as Zmiinyi Island, the Russian officer says: “This is a military warship. 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.”
A Ukrainian soldier responds: “Russian warship, go f*** yourself.”
Those were the final known words heard from the island.
All 13 Ukrainian defenders were killed in a Russian bombardment Thursday [February 24 2022], Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.
In the initial stream of information about the first events of the conflict following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the story of the Snake Island soldiers’ defiance in the face of their certain deaths have gained worldwide notoriety. But on February 28 2022, reports that all thirteen of the men “may have” survived began emerging:
On February 28 2022, Ukrainian journalist Illia Ponomarenko tweeted:
A little less than a day earlier, NPR’s “Ukrainian soldiers who profanely told off Russian warship may be alive, officials say” reported:
A group of Ukrainian soldiers stationed on an island military outpost who were presumed dead after a terse and profane interaction with a Russian warship last week may still be alive, Ukrainian officials announced Sunday [February 27 2022].
The Ukrainian troops on Zmiiniy Island — also known as Snake Island — may instead have been captured by Russian military forces, according to a statement from the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine.
“We sincerely hope that the boys will return home as soon as possible, and the information received at the time of the attack on the death will not be confirmed,” the statement reads.
NPR cited a February 26 2022 statement from the verified Facebook page “Державна прикордонна служба України/State Border Guard Service of Ukraine.” Facebook’s automatic translation of the statement from Ukrainian to English read:
We [have] strong beliefs that all Ukrainian defenders of Zmiiniy Island may be alive
The SBGSU and the Armed Forces, like the whole of Ukraine, have received hope that all of Zmiiny’s defenders are alive.
Russian media reported that Ukrainian servicemen on the island, who were temporarily occupied by Russia in Sevastopol, had been sent to Sevastopol.
Preliminary information that border guards may be dead came before the defenders lost contact.
As previously reported, on February 24 , the aggressor fired from naval weapons and used combat aircraft on border guards and soldiers of the Armed Forces on the island of Zmiiny.
According to available information at the time, the infrastructure was destroyed and the island captured.
Prior to that, the enemy repeatedly tried in vain to intimidate Ukrainian defenders with demands to surrender and received only one correct answer – no one will surrender.
We understand that Russian propagandists know how to make the necessary information attacks and use them, noting that Ukrainian defenders have surrendered.
Border guards and fighters of the Armed Forces bravely defended themselves, especially in the face of the overwhelming means of defeat and enemy forces.
Work to learn about the fate of Ukrainian defenders continued in all possible directions.
Currently, after receiving information about their probable location, the SBGS together with the Armed Forces is working to identify our soldiers, which is common in open networks.
We sincerely hope that the boys will return home as soon as possible, and the information received at the time of the attack on the death will not be confirmed.
Glory to Ukrainian defenders !!!
In the statement, the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine referenced a “strong” belief that the defenders of Snake Island “may be alive.” The statement attributed confusion over the fate of the men to Russian propaganda, and expressed hope that the “boys” would “return home as soon as possible”; it seemed to stop short of fully confirming the men survived.
On February 28 2022, the verified Facebook page ВМС ЗС України/Navy of the Armed Forces of Ukraine issued a statement condemning Russian propaganda about Snake Island and calling for the release of the men. Facebook’s automatic translation of it read:
Regarding the actions of the Russian Federation near the island of Zmí їnij
February 26th , receiving the information that on the o. A snake among our defenders may be killed and wounded, a Sapphire civilian ship was sent to the island to carry out a humanitarian mission to help the victims. Together with the crew agreed to leave father Vasily Virozub, Alexander Chokov and their assistants. But they were illegally captured by the Russians. Illegal capture of a civilian ship – a non-combatant without performing any military mission, is a violation of the rules and customs of war, international humanitarian law.
We demand from Russia the immediate release of illegally occupied citizens of Ukraine
We address the world community, to the believers of all churches requesting to take all possible measures to influence the Russian Federation for the return of our citizens
Regarding the Marines and border guards, who were taken captive by Russian occupiers on the island of Snake.
We are very happy to learn that our brothers are alive and well with them!
But Russian propaganda tries to twist the “news” about the fact that the Ukrainian authorities “forgotten”, “buried” their fellows.
At the same time, the sailors bravely rebuked twice the attacks of the Russian invaders. Because of BC’s marriage, they could not continue the protection of the island.
In turn, the invaders “forgot” to report that they had completely destroyed the island’s infrastructure: lighthouse, carnations, antennas, etc. Accordingly, the connection with the snake was interrupted. Repeated attempts to contact the personal team and learn about its fate were futile. And the permanent shelling on the side of warships and aviation of the Russian Federation did not allow to help the Marines.
In summary, we want to add, the enemy once demonstrated his essence. He proved again that there is no faith and truth in his actions and words.
And we are looking forward to our brothers and with all our soul.
Public Relations Service
The Naval Forces Commandments
Armed Forces of Ukraine
A viral February 24 2022 story about thirteen Ukrainian fighters killed on Snake Island spread virally. On February 26 2022, the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine issued a statement via Facebook indicating the fighters might have survived the attack. On February 28 2022, Navy of the Armed Forces of Ukraine followed with a statement asserting the 13 men on Snake Island had been captured by “Russian occupiers” and were “alive and well.” We were unable to locate any additional substantive information about their status, nor any updates on the fates of the civilians on the island.