Ukraine has struck Russian troops occupying Snake Island, whose defenders told a battleship to ‘go f*** yourself’ during the opening days of the war.
Commanders from Ukraine’s southern force said they had destroyed a Russian command post and an anti-aircraft missile system in a successful strike on Tuesday.
Russian forces in the region have been ‘reduced’, a post by Operation Command South said, but added that the exact number of troops killed is still being assessed.
Moscow’s forces have occupied the island since the first day of the invasion, when guided missile destroyer Moskva – which has since been sunk – and patrol boat Vasily Bykov attacked the 13 border guards stationed there.
Ukraine yesterday struck a Russian command post on Snake Island, where Kyiv’s men had told one of Moscow’s warships to ‘go f*** yourself’, causing an unknown number of casualties (file)
Moskva had radioed the defenders ordering them to surrender or be bombed, to which one of the soldiers responded: ‘Russian warship, go f*** yourself.’
It was initially thought the soldiers were killed after the iconic message was delivered, but it later emerged they had been captured alive.
Roman Hrybov, the solider who delivered the message, was subsequently handed back to Ukraine in a prisoner swap and awarded a medal for his actions.
The Moskva – flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet – was subsequently sunk after being hit by Ukrainian anti-ship missiles on April 14.
It is thought Ukraine used drones to distract the warship’s defences before firing two Neptune cruise missiles which struck the Moskva to the port side.
Images and video of the warship that subsequently leaked online showed the boat heavily damaged and partially on fire, listing to port and sitting low in the water.
Russia has admitted the vessel was sunk after an explosion on board, but has not said what it believes caused the blast.
Mystery also remains over the fate of the crew, hundreds of whom are thought to have died and been injured in the attack.
Moscow has admitted just one dead and 27 missing among the estimated 510 people on board at the time the Moskva sunk.
Russia seized control of the tiny island – which is strategically located in the Black Sea close to Ukraine – on the first day of the war after bombing the defenders
Salvage operations now appear to be underway, with the task given to a 110-year-old ship named Kommuna that was originally designed to rescue stricken submarines.
The ancient vessel, which has a crane arrangement over a hole in its main deck for winching submarines into, was spotted near the suspected site of the Moskva wreck last week – likely deploying a smaller submarine on board to check it out.
Though it is not clear what exactly the Kommuna is trying to salvage, the Moskva is likely to have gone down carrying tons of high explosives mounted to its missiles along with important documents.
Rumours have also swirled that it could have been carrying two nuclear warheads at the time it sank, though there has been no confirmation of this.
Ukraine now claims to have killed more than 22,000 Russian troops in more than two months of fighting against Russia, as well as destroying military equipment worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Putin ordered his forces into the country on February 24 to conduct what he hoped would be a days-long ‘special military operation’ to topple the government and install a puppet regime friendly to Moscow.
Moskva, the ship which ordered the Snake Island troops to surrender, has since been destroyed – sinking into the Black Sea after being hit by Ukrainian missiles
But, 62 days later, Ukraine remains in control of the vast majority of its territory having thwarted Russian attempts to storm into Kyiv.
Fighting is now at its most intense in the eastern Donbas region where Russian forces are attempting to capture the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk from Ukraine including the city of Mariupol.
Battles are also ongoing around Kherson, on the Black Sea coast, as Russia attempts to push east towards Mykolaiv and Odesa with the aim of cutting Ukraine off from its valuable sea trading routes.
Amid the renewed offensives, Kyiv’s western allies have stepped up support with the US vowing to get the country’s military whatever equipment it needs to ‘win’ the war.
On Tuesday, defence ministers from 40 nations met at Ramstein air base in Germany to pledge equipment – including from Germany itself, which had previously refused to hand over heavy arms.
Spelling out the mission ahead, US Defense Secreatary Lloyd Austin said the goal is to weaken Russia ‘to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.’