Some Ukrainian Snake Island defenders are still alive in Russian captivity, Ukrainian Main Intelligence Directorate representative Andriy Yusov said at a Monday Ukrinform press briefing.
"Indeed, part of the defenders of Zmiinyi [Island], a significant part of the defenders of Mariupol and Azovstal are in the captivity of the racists,” said Yusov. “Work continues to ensure that each of them returns home.”
Initially, it had been reported that all the defenders had died fighting against invading forces, but later the Ukrainian Military announced that they had been taken captive.
"Russian warship, go f*** yourself”Roman Hrybov
Some of the defenders had been freed in prisoner swaps with Russia. In November, seven of the defenders were exchanged along with 43 soldiers. In March, Roman Hrybov was freed. Hrybov uttered the now-famous line "Russian warship, go f*** yourself” when invading Russian naval forces demanded the Snake Island outpost to surrender in the opening days of the war.
What is the importance of Snake Island to Ukraine's morale?
Hrybov’s response and the Snake Island defenders’ resistance has played an important role in the Ukrainian narrative. This further developed when the warship leading the capture of the island, the Black Sea Fleet flagship Moskva, was sunk after it was struck by two Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship missiles.
The last major prison swap was on February 4, when 116 Ukrainian soldiers were traded for 63 Russian POWs.
“Those boys and girls who have already been returned are now going through the process of rehabilitation, post-isolation support and are returning either conditionally to a normal life, as long as we can all live in a normal life now, or also to endeavor to continue to fulfill their duties,” said Yusov.