The first clear satellite image has emerged of Snake Island, where Ukrainian defenders famously responded to the threat of Russian invasion with the words: “Russian warship, go f*** yourself.”
The image, taken on Sunday by Maxar Technologies, shows damage to some buildings from Russian military strikes, as well as a Russian naval vessel anchored in the Black Sea. It backs reports from the beginning of the Russian invasion that the island came under assault after its Ukrainian garrison rejected Russian surrender demands.
The Ukrainian troops were all killed – and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said they would be “awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine posthumously” – but later the Ukrainian military said they were “alive and well” and taken prisoner.
According to the Ukrainian Navy, the garrison on the island repelled two attacks by Russian forces but in the end was forced to surrender “due to the lack of ammunition.”
A Ukrainian statement said that Russian attackers destroyed the island’s infrastructure, including lighthouses, towers and antennas – some of the damage that can now be seen in the new satellite photo.
In the image, some of the red-roofed buildings in the island’s center are shown to have been significantly damaged by Russian shelling. Although parts of the island are snow-covered, impact craters can be seen dotting the island.
The ship seen offshore was identified by Maxar as a Ropucha-class landing ship.
Snake Island, also known as Zmiinyi Island, sits about 30 miles (48 kilometers) off the Ukrainian mainland’s southern tip in the northwestern Black Sea. It’s about 185 miles west of Crimea, the Ukrainian territory that Russia annexed in 2014.
Though it is only about 46 acres (18 hectares) in size, a report last year from the non-partisan Atlantic Council think tank called it “key to Ukraine’s maritime territorial claims” in the Black Sea.
Highlighting its strategic importance, Zelensky chose Snake Island last year as the spot for an interview with Ukrainian media in advance of a summit to try to reverse Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the Atlantic Council report said.
CNN’s Brad Lendon, Sebastian Shukla and Lianne Kolirin contributed to this report.