Russia comments on capture of Black Sea island
The Russian military has taken prisoner 82 Ukrainian troops who were deployed on Snake Island in the Black Sea, the Russian defense ministry claimed on Friday. They “laid down arms” and will be set free after pledging not to take part in military action against Russia, ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.
The claim contradicted statements by Ukrainian officials. Border guards on Thursday confirmed that Russia was attacking the island and reported losing contact with troops deployed there overnight.
Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the Ukrainian interior ministry, claimed on Thursday that Russian troops killed 13 Ukrainian soldiers after they refused to surrender. Footage accessible on social media shows what appears to be a Russian warship blasting through loudspeakers a demand to lay down arms to Ukrainian soldiers on the island. The message was promising them safety and freedom if they comply.
President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday pronounced all the border guards dead. The troops “died heroically” while defending Snake Island, the Ukrainian leader said in an address to the nation. He vowed to posthumously award them highest Ukrainian military merits.
Snake Island, or Zmiini Island, is a small cross-shaped mass of land measuring just over 600 meters across. It is located some 35 kilometers off the coast of Ukraine’s Odessa region, close to the border with Romania. Ukrainian border guards maintained a small outpost there.
Russia launched a military attack against Ukraine on Thursday. President Vladimir Putin claimed that Russia needed to demilitarize the country to put an end to NATO’s creeping expansion into its territory and to stop Ukrainian attacks on the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Lugansk. Western nations condemned the move and imposed sanctions against Russia’s financial sector and imports.