Ukrainian troops have landed on Snake Island where they raised Ukraine’s flag, according to officials, one week after Russian forces withdrew from the strategic islet in the Black Sea.
Andriy Yermak, the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff, posted a video on Telegram on Thursday of three soldiers raising a large flag. The spokesperson for the military administration in the southern Odesa region, Serhiy Bratchuk, also published several photos on Telegram.
Later, Russia’s defence ministry said a Russian fighter jet had hit and killed an unspecified number of Ukrainian troops.
“At about 5am, several Ukrainian servicemen landed on the island from a motor boat and took pictures with the flag. An aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces immediately launched a strike with high-precision missiles on Snake Island, as a result of which part of the Ukrainian military personnel was destroyed,” Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.
The details of the account could not be independently verified.
Snake Island, or Zmiinyi, achieved international fame when Ukrainian border guards stood their ground and impolitely refused a Russian warship’s ultimatum to surrender after Russia’s invasion on February 24.
The flag hoisted on Thursday was signed by Odesa’s military governor Maxim Marchenko and bore the inscription: “Remember, ‘Russian warship,’ the island belongs to Ukraine!!!”
Captured by Russia from Ukraine at the start of the war in February, the tiny island is strategically important because of its proximity to sea lanes close to Ukraine’s main Black Sea port of Odesa, where a Russian blockade has prevented grain exports from one of the world’s main suppliers.
Russia said it had pulled out from Snake Island last week as a “gesture of goodwill” to show it was not obstructing United Nations attempts to open a humanitarian corridor allowing grain to be shipped from Ukraine.
Ukraine said it had driven the Russian forces out after an artillery and missile assault.