President Zelensky has visited Snake Island, the legendary Black Sea outpost whose few defenders famously defied a Russian warship during the first days of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

As the war reached its 500th day on Saturday, Zelensky released a video showing him aboard a small boat making his way to the island where he recorded a speech.

“Today we are on Snake Island, which will never be conquered by the occupiers, like the whole of Ukraine, because we are the country of the brave,” he said.

In a post on social media, he added: “I am grateful to everyone who fought here against the occupiers. 

“The memory of the heroes who gave their lives in this battle – one of the most important during the full-scale war – was honored. 

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“Glory to everyone who fights for security in our Black Sea! Honor!”

Russian forces occupied the strategic west Black Sea island on the first day of the war on Ukraine but were forced to abandon it in June.

The outpost became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance after a radio exchange went viral at the start of the war in which Ukrainian soldiers used an expletive in response to Russian demands from the Moskva missile carrier that they surrender.

The Ukrainian soldiers were taken prisoner but later exchanged for Russian captives. The recording of this verbal exchange has gone around the world and served as a theme for the Ukrainian resistance, even appearing on placards during support rallies abroad and on stamps. 

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The Russian ship involved, the Moskva, sank in the Black Sea in April after being hit by Ukrainian missiles.

Finishing a trip to Turkey on Saturday, Zelensky prayed for the victims of the war alongside Patriarch Bartholomew, the leader of the world's Orthodox, after a regional tour to drum up support ahead of a NATO summit next week.

The UN has documented 9,000 civilian deaths since the start of the war on February 24, 2022, including 500 children, although it estimates the real toll could be significantly higher.

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That toll went up again on Saturday as authorities in the eastern Donetsk region said six people were killed by Russian rocket fire in the town of Lyman.

"At around 10:00 am, the Russians struck the town with multiple rocket launchers," Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on social media, adding: "At least six people were killed and five injured."

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