Nineteen heroic Ukrainian defenders of Snake Island were liberated today in a PoW exchange with Russia. They became an international symbol of Ukrainian resistance at the start of the brutal war some 27 months ago, after telling a Russian warship: ‘Go [expletive] yourself.’ They were among 75 from each side swapped in a new release deal....READ THE FULL ARTICLE FROM THE SOURCE

On the Ukrainian side it also included defenders of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant which briefly fell under Russian control, and fighters from Mariupol.

The returnees were seen singing a patriotic song led by former PoW Konstantin Mirgorodsky as they were driven to meet their families after release from detention in Russia. Upon arrival, they whooped and cheered as they joined their loved ones in Ukraine.

One emotional returnee today was Ukrainian policewoman Maryana Chechelyuk, 24, who had been feared dead after being held in Olenivka detention center where dozens of Ukrainian PoWs died in a massacre.

The young police officer had been in the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol when defenders surrendered to Putin’s forces. She was separated from her younger sister and taken to a brutal filtration camp.

In August 2022 human rights activists expressed alarm over her fate in Russian hands. Snake – or Zmiyinyi – Island in the Black Sea hit the headlines at the start of the war when heroic defenders famously radioed an approaching Russian cruiser to ‘Go [expletive] yourself’.

Ukrainian defenders on the island spent more than 800 days in Russian captivity. The Russians grabbed the island but later retreated in a humiliating setback for Vladimir Putin which was styled bizarrely a ‘gesture of goodwill’ by Moscow.

The Russian vessel – the Moskva, flagship of the Black Sea Fleet – was later sunk in a Ukrainian missile strike, perhaps Putin’s biggest single setback of the war. The strategic rock outcrop was visited by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to mark the 500th day of the war.

He said today: ‘Throughout all of this time, we have not stopped working for a single day to bring everyone home from Russian captivity.

‘We remember every person. ‘We are making every effort to find each and every one of our people. I am grateful to the team responsible for the exchanges.’

Zelensky said when he visited the island: ‘This small piece of land in the middle of our Black Sea is a great proof that Ukraine will return to itself every part of its territory.

‘I want to thank you from this very place. ‘Victories to each of our soldiers for these 500 days, our armed forces, our intelligence.’ He praised all the Ukrainian services for the defense of the country against Putin’s invaders.

‘We are moving forward Thank you to each and every one of you.’ The same number of Russians, 75, were also returned home in a swap brokered by the United Arab Emirates. It was the first PoW exchange since February…..CONTINUE READING THE FULL ARTICLE>>>


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