When we first heard over the weekend that the Ukrainian soldiers defending Snake Island who had reportedly been killed after telling a Russian warship to “go f*** yourself” might still be alive, I’ll confess that I was a bit dubious. The news was entirely sourced from Russian media and it sounded like just the sort of story that Putin’s goons would have cooked up to tamp down Ukrainian enthusiasm for the ongoing resistance. But as of this morning, it appears that the Ukrainian military has seen enough proof of life to go along with it. So what really happened to them and how did they wind up in Russian custody out on the Crimean Peninsula? (NY Post)
The Ukrainian border guards who told a Russian warship to “go f–k yourself” as they defended Snake Island in the Black Sea are still alive and being held captive by the invading forces, Kyiv’s navy revealed Monday.
The 13 guards were initially presumed dead after they defiantly refused to surrender their post on the small island near the Romanian border when two Russian vessels approached last Thursday.
The Ukraine Navy said in a Facebook post that the guards had been “taken captive by Russian occupiers.”
The Ukrainian Navy is saying that they are “very happy” to learn that their brothers in arms are “alive and well,” which is completely understandable. But since they are using the phrase “and well” in the statement, that would imply that the guards are either uninjured or only received minor injuries during the event. Considering that the Russian warship had reportedly been shelling the facilities on the island in an attack sufficiently destructive to cut off all communications, that seems rather surprising. I suppose they may have been deep enough underground to not take any hits.
But it also raises questions about the bit of propaganda that the Russians were clearly seeking to push. They claimed that the guards had dropped their weapons and surrendered. If they wound up in Russian custody unharmed, that story sounds a lot more plausible and sort of deflates the historic “last stand” that was previously being discussed. Not that I blame them, of course. If you’re vastly outnumbered and have shipboard cannons aimed at you from point-blank range, it’s not hard to see how discretion might quickly become the better part of valor.
Another question was raised in today’s report. Shortly after the original incident, Zelensky made sure that all of the men were posthumously awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine. It’s now being asked if he will be rescinding those awards, now that the troops are no longer in a “posthumous” condition and may have surrendered. That seems like it would be a bit awkward and extreme for Zelensky to do. It’s probably better to just thank them for their service when they return and leave things as they stand.
In the meantime, the talks with Russia are still taking place. It might be a good idea to add a demand for the release of any and all captives the Russians have taken during the invasion to the current list. (Assuming they haven’t demanded that already.) The list should include the prisoners from Snake Island.