Ukrainian Snake Island captives released in POW exchange

50 Ukrainian POWs were released, including seven from the "Snake Island" where Ukrainian troops refused to surrender, telling the Russian navy to "Go f*** yourself, Russian warship."

 Snake Island (illustrative). (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Snake Island (illustrative).
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Ukraine has announced that 50 Ukrainian soldiers, including seven soldiers captured on "Snake Island", have been released from the Russian captive, on Thursday. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced the release of the prisoners of war in a speech on Thursday, saying: "Today, another 50 Ukrainian warriors were freed from Russian captivity. Two officers, 48 privates and sergeants. 15 of them were captured in the Kyiv region, on the territory of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant. Seven were captured on Zmiinyi Island. Finally, they will all be home.

"We will do absolutely everything possible and impossible to return every Ukrainian man and woman who are still being held by the occupiers,"

Volodymyr Zelensky

"We will do absolutely everything possible and impossible to return every Ukrainian man and woman who are still being held by the occupiers," He added. 

Snake Island is a small island in the Black sea, south of the city of Odesa, with a population of fewer than 100 people, prior to the war. 

On February 27, three days after the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, two Russian military ships approached the island and ordered the Ukrainian soldiers stationed on the island to surrender. The Ukrainians responded by saying: "Go f*** yourself, Russian warship."

The initial reports have said that all soldiers stationed on the island were killed in action, but the Ukrainian navy said later that week that all the soldiers are alive and were captured by Russia. Several of them were released previous to the current POW exchange. 

A clip of the conversation between the soldiers and the Russian warships has been published in Ukrainian media and became an instant symbol of heroism and resistance for Ukrainians. The soldier who had said the now iconic line received was awarded a medal for his service in March. 

Ukraine's energy and infrastructure problems

Ukraine has been dealing with severe energy shortages, as Russia targets its energy infrastructure, with more than two-thirds of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv experiencing power outages.

These shortages are particularly troubling as the temperatures in Kyiv have dropped below zero degrees Celsius in recent nights, causing a serious heating shortage for residents. 

Ukrainian officials have been blaming Russia for using the winter as a weapon against civilians in hopes of demoralizing the Ukrainian people.

President Zelensky said in September that Ukraine rather staying without food, water and gas than be with Russia, making it clear that the Ukrainian leadership will not be pushed by the cold weather and power shortages.