Ukraine border guards remind Russia Snake Island is again theirs

KYIV (Reuters) – Ukrainian border guards placed a new sign on Snake Island this weekend, recalling the early hours of Russia’s invasion when a comrade on the strategic Black Sea outcrop used a choice phrase to refuse to surrender to a warship.

“The next border sign will be installed in our Ukrainian Crimea after its liberation by the defence forces of Ukraine,” a uniformed man said, standing before a post painted blue and yellow like the country’s flag, in a video shared on Facebook late on Saturday by the head of the border service, Serhiy Deineko.

Tiny Snake Island became synonymous with Ukrainian resistance in the first hours of the Feb. 24, 2022 invasion, when Russian officers on the Black Sea Fleet flagship Moskva radioed Ukrainian guards stationed there and ordered them to surrender or die.

One of them radioed back “Russian warship, go fuck yourself.”

The phrase became a national slogan, depicted on Ukrainian billboards, T-shirts, and eventually a postage stamp.

The strategic island overlooks sea lanes to Odesa, Ukraine’s main Black Sea port.

On April 14, 2022, two Ukrainian missiles struck the Moskva, the biggest warship sunk in combat for 40 years. Russia says one sailor was killed in an accident. Western experts say they believe around half of the crew of about 450 perished at sea.

On June 30, Russia abandoned Snake Island after taking heavy losses trying to defend it. It called its withdrawal another “goodwill gesture.”

Russia still holds swathes of territory in eastern and southern Ukraine. However, Ukraine is pressing ahead with a counteroffensive in which it claimed further progress on Saturday.

“Historical justice has been restored,” Deineko said in his Facebook post. “Ukraine will definitely win!!!”

(Reporting by Maria Starkova in Kyiv and Elaine Monaghan in Washington; Writing by Elaine Monaghan; Editing by Sandra Maler)