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Volodymyr Zelensky visits Snake Island as war enters 500th day

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky has visited Snake Island, the island seized by Russia at the start of the war, in a symbolic gesture to mark 500 days of Ukraine’s war with Russia.

A video posted on Telegram showed the Ukrainian leader arriving at the island by boat and leaving flowers at a memorial.

“I want to thank from here, from this place of victory, each of our soldiers for these 500 days,” President Zelensky said.

The tiny island in the Black Sea made headlines around the world when Ukrainian soldiers made a stand against a Russian warship at the start of the invasion in February 2022.

Audio recordings emerged of a group of 19 security guards telling the Russian warship ‘go f*** yourself’ when told to surrender.

It had been believed the guards were all killed in an attack and President Zelensky said they would be posthumously given a medal for bravery, but it later emerged they been detained by Russia and were freed in a prisoner exchange.

Ukrainian forces reclaimed Snake Island in June last year.

Earlier this week President Zelensky visited the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Turkey a day after talks in Bulgaria to drum up support for Nato membership before the alliance’s summit, which begins next Wednesday.

In Prague, he won a pledge of support for Ukraine to join Nato “as soon as the war is over”, and in Sofia secured backing for membership “as soon as conditions allow.”

North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reaffirmed his view that Ukraine would become a member.

“Our summit will send a clear message: Nato stands united, and Russia’s aggression will not pay,” Stoltenberg said at a news conference in Brussels.

It remained unclear, however, what Ukraine will be offered next week at the summit in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital.

The alliance is divided over how fast Ukraine should move towards membership, and some countries are wary of any step that might take Nato closer to war with Russia.

Nato countries must unanimously approve new members and applications from countries much more stable than Ukraine, such as Sweden, have been held up amid political wrangling. Georgia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have both spent years in Nato accession talks.

Mr Zelensky has acknowledged that Kyiv is unlikely to be able to join Nato while at war with Russia. Russian leader Vladimir Putin has threatened unspecified action if Ukraine joins Nato.

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