About Snake Island
Also known as Serpent Island or Zmiinyi Island, Snake Island is an island that belongs to Ukraine in the Black Sea. It has an important role in delineating Ukrainian territorial waters. The island came to international prominence in 2022 when it was attacked by two Russian warships.
There are records of the island’s existence since classical antiquity, and during that era was home to a Greek temple to the demigod Achilles.
History of Snake Island
The island was named ‘Leuke’ (White Island) by the Greeks and Alba by the Romans, likely because of the marble formations which can be found there. It was sacred to Achilles and had a temple with a statue inside. It is thought that remains of the temple were found in 1823; however, subsequent construction of the lighthouse there destroyed all evidence.
A 12-metre tall lighthouse was constructed on the island in 1842. It was either severely damaged or destroyed during World War One, then restored before World War Two.
In 2007, a village, Bile, was founded with the aim of consolidating the status of the island as an inhabited place. The island was populated by a reported 30 people in 2012.
Snake Island today
The island made international news on 24 February 2022, the first day of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, when two Russian navy warships attacked and captured the island. Upon receiving transmission from one of the Russian naval warships requesting surrender, a Ukrainian border guard responded, ‘Russian warship, go f*** yourself’.
The response then became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance. Though it was initially feared that the garrison had all died during the attack, it was later confirmed that they are all alive.
Getting to Snake Island
Snake Island is a tightly-controlled island that is only accessible by boat or air. The war in Ukraine has led to much of the island’s infrastructure being destroyed, including lighthouses, towers, antennae and communications with the mainland.