The Ukrainian border guards who told Russian troops to go fuck themselves instead of surrendering weren’t killed, but rather were captured and are now prisoners of war, the Ukrainian navy said Monday.
A viral video last week showed a Russian warship ordering the capitulation of a garrison defending Snake Island in the Black Sea, and the border guards refusing to surrender. “Russian warship, go fuck yourself,” one border guard said, according to a translation.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday that 13 guards had “died heroically” and said he would posthumously give them the title “Hero of Ukraine,” the nation’s highest civilian honor.
But on Monday, the Ukrainian navy said in a Facebook post that the guards were alive and “illegally captured” by the Russian ship, and demanded “the immediate release of illegally occupied citizens of Ukraine.”
The Russian defense ministry previously said that 82 Ukrainian troops had been captured while reporting no casualties on either side, according to Australian broadcaster ABC.
“We are very happy to learn that our brothers are alive and well with them!” the Ukrainian navy said.
The State Border Guard Service of Ukraine, citing Russian state television reports, said over the weekend that Ukraine had “strong beliefs that all Ukrainian defenders of Zmiiniy Island may be alive,” and had been transferred to the city of Sevastopol in Crimea.
The service said in a Saturday Facebook post that declarations of the border guards’ deaths were based on “preliminary information” that “came before the defenders lost contact.”
The Ukrainian navy said that the Russians had “completely destroyed the island's infrastructure: lighthouse, carnations, antennas, etc,” and that “repeated attempts to contact the team and learn about its fate were futile.”
Ukrainian and Russian officials met for peace talks at the Ukrainian-Belarusian border Monday, and Zelenskyy said Monday that the next day is a “crucial period” for Ukraine.
But de-escalation efforts don’t appear to be working so far; Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces on high alert Sunday, in response to what he described as “aggressive statements” from NATO members.
Zelenskyy asked the European Union to admit Ukraine as a full member “immediately” during a video address Monday. “We are grateful to the partners who stand with us. It’s our goal to be with all Europeans and, most importantly, to be equal,” Zelenskyy said. “I am sure it’s fair. I am sure we deserve it. I am sure it’s possible.”
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