A contingent of Ukrainian officers defending a tiny island from advancing Russian troops were killed after refusing to surrender. Among their final words? “Go fuck yourself.”
In the purported audio exchange on Snake Island, a voice can be heard saying: “I am a Russian military ship… proposing to put down arms immediately to avoid bloodshed and unjustified deaths. In worst case, you will be hit with a bomb strike.”
“Russian warship, go fuck yourself,” a Ukrainian soldier responded.
The audio was widely shared online and praised by Ukrainians, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Zelenskyy acknowledged their sacrifice in the early hours of Friday, who said all 13 guards on the island died “heroically” and would be awarded Hero of Ukraine medals posthumously.
“May the memory of those who gave their lives for Ukraine live forever,” he said in a video message released on Facebook after midnight.
Stories of defiance against Russian aggression have emerged in the last two days since Russia launched attacks on Ukraine in the early hours of Thursday morning, on the pretext of demilitarizing and de-Nazifying its neighbor.
Army veterans and civilians vowed to fight, while Ukrainians abroad headed home to defend their country. Zelenskyy himself said he would not flee Kyiv even as he said he was the number one target of Russian “sabotage groups” that have entered the capital.
Just 42 acres in size, Snake Island sits some 88 miles off the Ukraine port city of Odessa and 185 miles west off the coast of Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula Russia seized in 2014.
Known as Zmiyiniy Ostriv in Ukrainian, the island is seen as key to Ukraine’s maritime territorial claims and the defense of shipping routes to the Ukrainian port cities of Odessa, Mykolaiv, and Kherson, according to the Atlantic Council, a U.S. think tank.
The audio exchange was released on Thursday by the Ukrainian outlet Ukrayinska Pravda as the country called on Ukrainians to enlist in the army. The government has imposed martial law nationwide and banned all Ukrainian men between 18 and 60 from leaving the country.
Russian troops closed in on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Friday. Large explosions lit up the night sky of the city on Friday morning and its mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said on Facebook three people were injured when rocket debris struck a residential building.
“Last time our capital experienced anything like this was in 1941 when it was attacked by Nazi Germany. Ukraine defeated that evil and will defeat this one,” Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter.
Zelenskyy said at least 137 civilians and military personnel were killed on the first day of Russia’s attacks.