The 13 Ukrainian border guards who were reportedly massacred while defending a small Black Sea island after telling a Russian warship to “Go f–k yourself” may still be alive, officials said.
“We [have a] strong belief that all Ukrainian defenders of Zmiinyi (Snake) Island may be alive,” the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine (SBGSU) said in a statement Saturday.
“Preliminary information that border guards may be dead came before the defenders lost contact.”
The story of the brave soldiers defiantly refusing to surrender their post on Snake Island made headlines across the globe after Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky and the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine had both confirmed that they were wiped out two days ago.
Now there is hope that they are still alive.
According to the border agency, Russian media reported that the soldiers had been captured after they laid down their arms and were transported to Sevastopol on the Russian-controlled Crimea Peninsula. SBGSU noted that this information has not been confirmed.
According to CNN, Russian Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov claimed 82 Ukrainian servicemen “laid down their arms and voluntarily surrendered to a unit of the Russian Armed Forces,” in a statement on Friday.
“After receiving information about their possible location, the DPSU together with the Armed Forces of Ukraine are conducting work on identifying our soldiers,” officials said.
“We sincerely hope that the boys will return home as soon as possible,” they added.
Two Russian ships approached the Ukrainian island on Thursday, hours after Russia launched its full-scale invasion into Ukraine.
The Russians contacted the guards and identified themselves as a “Russian warship,” demanding that the Ukrainians surrender or they would open fire, according to audio of the exchange.
“This is a Russian warship, I repeat. I suggest you surrender your weapons and capitulate otherwise I will open fire. Do you copy?” the Russians told the border guards.
“Russian warship, go f–k yourself,” a Ukrainian guard bluntly responded.
The Russians then opened fire on the 42-acre island with barreled gunships and airstrikes, before all communications with the guards was lost, according to reports.
The island’s infrastructure was destroyed and is now occupied by the Russian military, according to SBSGU.
Zelensky said on Thursday that the 13 border guards will receive a posthumous Hero of Ukraine medal for “heroically” defending the island.
“On our Zmiinyi Island, defending it to the last, all the border guards died heroically,” Zelensky said. “But [they] did not give up.”