Zelenskyy visits Snake Island to mark war milestone; Russian strikes continue
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy marked 500 days of war by releasing a video on Saturday that showed him visiting Snake Island in the Black Sea. It is not clear when the video was filmed, as Zelenskyy was visiting Turkey on Saturday.
"Today we are on Zmiinyi Island - on our Zmiinyi Island, which will never be conquered by the occupier, like the whole of Ukraine, because we are a country of the brave," Zelenskyy said in the video. He laid flowers at a memorial on the island and then released wreaths onto the water.
Soldiers on the island were immortalized by their fiery response to Russian troops who demanded surrender early in the war. The island was later captured by Russian forces, as were its Ukrainian defenders. Those Ukrainian soldiers were later freed as part of a prisoner exchange.
After the island was taken, the Ukrainian military heavily bombarded the small Russian garrison stationed there, forcing them to pull back on June 30, 2022. The Russian retreat reduced the threat of a seaborne attack on the port city of Odesa and helped pave the way for a deal to resume Ukrainian grain exports.
"I'm grateful to all those who are fighting for Ukraine," Zelenskyy said.
Intense battles continue to be waged across Ukraine as the war continues. Ukrainian forces last month began a counteroffensive to take back Russian-controlled territory in the east and south of the country. Facing powerful Russian defensive lines, they have only recaptured a few hundred square kilometers and around a dozen villages after more than a month.
The Biden administration announced they will provide Ukraine with a controversial $800 million dollar cluster munitions weapons package. The decision to provide cluster munitions comes as Ukraine faces an ammunition shortfall in its slower-than-expected counteroffensive against dug-in Russian forces. In late June the Biden administration announced another $500 million drawdown package to Ukraine, which includes more than three dozen Bradley and Stryker armored vehicles to assist the counteroffensive.
Ukraine's interior ministry said that a Russian rocket strike on the town of Lyman killed eight civilians and wounded 13 others early Saturday. Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of the eastern Donetsk region, posted images showing some of the dead, including a body lying under a bicycle and body fragments on the pavement next to a damaged vehicle, saying that "the Russian terrorists are continuing to strike civilians in Donetsk."
A private residence, a shop and a few cars were damaged in the attack on Lyman, which sits just a few kilometers (miles) from the front line, where Russian troops have recently intensified fighting in the forests of Kreminna.
Lyman, a major rail hub, was initially captured by Russian forces but then re-taken by Ukraine's army in October.
Reporting contributed by Eleanor Watson.