By Yiming Woo
KYIV (Reuters) – Meet Snake, a kitten with a heck of a war story. And the Ukrainian special forces soldier who saved him.
When Ukraine’s military released images in early July of its troops raising the country’s blue and yellow flag over Snake Island, a desolate but strategic Black Sea outcrop abandoned by the Russians, it included pictures of soldiers picking up a tiny black kitten. They named him after the island.
On Friday, two weeks after he was saved, Snake was taken out for a frolic along the Dnipro River in the capital Kyiv and introduced to a small group of reporters. The man who saved him told the story of the kitten’s rescue.
“In the first stage of the operation, we took a picture of the island’s territory with a drone,” said the special forces soldier, wearing a mask to conceal his identity, while the kitten, just a few months old, curled up in his hands.
“The commander saw the little comrade, and included the task of bringing him back as one of the mission objectives.”
Was it hard to find a little kitten on a big, windy island?
“We thought it would be difficult, but he found us,” the soldier said. “The report we made to the commander after we left the island was: ‘Mission complete, no casualties. One additional team member – a kitten called Snake.'”
Snake Island has assumed legendary status in Ukraine since the very first hours of the war, when the Ukrainian garrison there, ordered by Russia’s Black Sea Fleet flagship to surrender, radioed back an obscenity. The incident was immortalised on a Ukrainian postage stamp, and on the day it was released Ukraine sank the ship.
Today, Snake has found a new home in Kyiv. The soldier would not discuss the kitten’s living arrangements in detail, but Snake seemed evidently happy in the soldier’s hands.
“He is with a loving family now. All is well.”
(Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)