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President Volodymyr Zelensky marked 500 days of Russia's full-scale war on July 8 with a video filmed on Snake Island, promising that Ukraine will reclaim every part of its territory currently occupied by Russia.
Snake Island, located 35 kilometers from the mainland of Odesa Oblast, was captured by Russian forces at the onset of the full-scale invasion due to its strategic importance.
On Feb. 24, 2022, two Russian warships attacked the island and told the Ukrainian border guards to surrender. One of the Ukrainian border guards famously responded, "Russian warship, go fuck yourself," a phrase which became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance.
Occupying Snake Island effectively allowed Russian forces to launch a blockade of Odesa's Black Sea ports and direct missile attacks against Ukraine until April 14, 2022, when Ukraine successfully sunk the Mosvka, the flagship of Russia's Black Sea Fleet.
Russian forces withdrew from Snake Island later that June. Their retreat led to establishment of the U.N. and Turkey brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative, which resumed grain and other agricultural exports to the rest of the world.
In the video, Zelensky and other officials – including his Chief of Staff Andriy Yermak – laid flowers on the island to commemorate those who gave their lives defending Ukraine during the early days of the full-scale invasion.
Despite the odds, Ukrainian forces have been able to make significant gains in the past year, pushing Russian forces out of the north, east, and south.
Ukraine went on to launch a successful counteroffensive in September and liberate the occupied parts of Kharkiv Oblast, as well as parts of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts later that month.
In November, the city of Kherson and other parts of Kherson and Mykolaiv oblasts were liberated by Ukrainian forces.
In June, Ukraine launched a long-anticipated counteroffensive to recapture more of its territory. Parts of occupied Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts have been liberated and Ukrainian forces continue to advance along southern and eastern front lines.