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Ukrainian servicemen on Snake Island who told off Russian ships may be alive

A group of Ukrainian soldiers who drew worldwide notice after angrily telling off a Russian warship may be alive, contrary to earlier claims, according to Ukrainian officials.

The soldiers on Snake Island, a small island in the Black Sea, rose to renown last week after a Russian cruiser requested them to surrender or be blasted, according to a tweet from the Ukrainian Embassy in Georgia.

Before one of the Ukrainian soldiers answered with an expletive, an audio recording of the incident shows a Russian colonel asking the men to put down their weapons to “avoid bloodshed and unnecessary deaths.”

Ukrainian officials confirmed last week that all 13 of the soldiers were slain. A “posthumous award of the title of Hero of Ukraine” was made by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, during a press briefing.

But according to a statement from Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service, there’s a chance the servicemen were taken by Russian forces but are still alive.

“We truly hope that the lads will return home as soon as possible, and the information obtained at the time of the attack on the death will not be confirmed,” the message states, translated in several accounts.

70 Ukrainian servicemen were killed by Russian shelling at a military base, according to an official, and the United States has expelled Russian ambassadors.

According to Russian media reports, the kidnapped servicemen were transported to the Crimean city of Sevastopol, according to the statement.

The soldiers’ survival was also confirmed by the Ukrainian Navy.

Ukrainian and Russian teams were meeting near the Belarusian border on Monday for the first direct discussions since Russia invaded Ukraine last week. The meetings come after Russian President Vladimir Putin put nuclear troops on higher alert on Sunday.

Ukraine has honored 13 soldiers who were killed defending a tiny island after reportedly swearing at a Russian ship that ordered them to surrender.

In unverified audio clips, the borders guards defending Zmiinyi Island in the Black Sea are urged to “laid down your guns” or “be bombed”.

“Russian warship, go to hell,” they respond.

Ukraine says they were then killed by air and sea strikes. Russia dismisses the account, stating they all surrendered.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has bestowed each of the guards the posthumous title of “Hero of Ukraine”.

“On our Zmiinyi Island, defending it to the death, all the border guards perished valiantly,” Mr. Zelensky said.

In the audio recordings, supplied by a Ukrainian government source, the soldiers can be heard exchanging harsh words with the Russian vessel.

“This is a Russian warship,” one voice says in the clip. “I advise you lay down your guns and surrender to spare bloodshed and avoidable victims. Otherwise, you will be bombed”

Ukrainian servicemen on Snake Island
Ukrainian servicemen on Snake Island

According to the recording, the Ukrainian soldiers can then be heard chatting amongst themselves, agreeing “this is it”, before their final “go to hell”.

According to Ukrainian officials, they were the final statements heard from the island before Russia commenced strikes and Kyiv lost touch with the island.

The official Russian account of the incident differs substantially. Moscow said the 82 Ukrainian forces occupying the island gave it to them voluntarily and made no mention of carrying out strikes or inflicting deaths.

Snake Island is a roughly 16-hectare (40-acre) rocky island controlled by Ukraine that sits around 300km (186 miles) west of Crimea.

Ukraine says 137 of its civilians and military personnel were killed during Russia’s assault on Thursday.

Ukraine island defenders who told the Russian navy ‘go fuck yourself’ may still be alive

According to Ukraine’s State Border Guard, Ukrainian soldiers believed to have died defending an island after instructing a Russian cruiser to “go fuck yourselves” may still be alive.

Initial reports suggested the 13 border guards had perished after refusing to yield Snake Island, which sits 186 miles (300km) west of Crimea, from a Russian air and naval bombardment on Thursday.

In his statement after the first day of the Russian invasion, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, stated he would posthumously grant all the soldiers the Hero of Ukraine medal. All border guards who lost their lives in the line of duty didn’t give up, Zelenskiy claimed.

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They had reportedly answered to a commander on board the Russian cruiser with a defiant: “Russian warship, go fuck yourself” when asked to put down their guns.

But in a recent statement posted on Facebook, the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine said: “We [have a] strong belief that all Ukrainian defenders of Zmiinyi (Snake) Island may be alive.”

“The [border guard service] is working with the Ukrainian Armed Forces to identify our soldiers after receiving information about their likely whereabouts.”

It said preliminary indications that border guards may be dead came before the guys had lost communication. “We truly hope that the boys will return home as soon as possible,” it stated, adding that it hoped that rumors of the soldiers’ death proved wrong. “Glory to Ukrainian defenders!” it added.

Amid overwhelming respect for the men’s bravery, the Republican senator for Nebraska, Ben Sasse, altered his Twitter bio to “Russian warship, go fuck yourself.”

The Russian navy is said to have pounded the island with deck guns before sending forces to take possession, according to the Maritime Executive, citing local media sources.

Snake Island – known as Zmiinyi Island in Ukrainian – is situated near the Ukrainian and Romanian shores along the Black Sea, and has previously been the subject of a territorial dispute between the two countries.

A marine research station is situated on the island, and its maritime limits take in an area known to be strategically vital for resources like petroleum.

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