Among the 137 Ukrainian lives lost reported by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, 13 were border guards who made a courageous last stand against overwhelming forces, defying Russian military might and giving their lives for this act.
On the tiny but strategic Snake Island, located on the Black Sea near the Romanian border, Russian warships led by the missile cruiser Moskva and patrol ship Vasily Bykov opened fire. Highlighting Moscow’s firepower into the Black Sea, the Moskva is an enormous 11,000-ton cruiser launched by the Soviets in the 1980s to stand against US aircraft carriers.
According to the Ukrainian government, the defenders held on for several hours, and the attackers offered the small contingency one last chance to surrender.
As one of the Ukrainians in danger live-streamed the event online, the lightly armed defenders heard demands from Russian Navy warships that they “lay down their arms and surrender,” or otherwise face bombing. One can be heard saying, “This is it,” while another asked his comrades what he should do.
The reportedly 23-year-old responded, “Russian warship, go f*ck yourself.” Those were the last known words from the island.
All 13 died at the bombing, which officials say destroyed the island’s infrastructure. Zelenskyy announced that he is conferring the title of “Hero of Ukraine,” the government’s highest honor on all 13 defenders. “May the memory of those who gave their lives for Ukraine live forever,” he said in referencing their extraordinary bravery.
The sacrifice highlights terrible decisions, undoubtedly being forced onto tens of thousands of Ukrainians caught in the most major military offensive on European soil since World War Two.
Some observers describe the Russian invasion and Ukrainian defense as the first “TikTok war” about its sometimes nearly instantaneous dispersion of real-time actions on social media. However, many also note the complicated task of separating fact from fiction as all sides use platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok to spread information and misinformation.
By all accounts, the incident on Snake Island appears to be an actual event, and videos circulating online have amassed millions of views.
The People’s Republic of China’s notable exception has rained down on Vladimir Putin and the Russian military. Demonstrations are widespread, and the Kremlin faces protesters at home willing to risk arrest to decry the unprovoked invasion.
Dozens of Russian cities report the outbreak of demonstrations. Participants include everyone from athletes, actors, and Eurovision stars to average Russian citizens who face potential career-killing consequences from the government. Thousands of arrests are already reported, some media members covering the mass demonstrations.