A group of Ukrainian soldiers thought to have died while defending a small island in the Black Sea after telling a Russian warship “go f**k yourself” are alive, the Ukrainian navy has confirmed.
"We are very happy to learn that our brothers are alive and everything is well with them," it said in a statement.
But it is understood the soldiers have been taken prisoner.
They surrendered after repelling two Russian attacks “due to the lack of ammunition,” the Ukrainian navy said.
Russian state media showed the Ukrainian soldiers’ arrival in Sevastopol, Crimea, where they are reportedly being held.
Over the weekend, the Ukrainian Border Guard Service said it had received information that all 82 soldiers on the island may be alive.
Attempts to find out what happened to them were interrupted after Russian troops destroyed infrastructure on the island, the Ukrainian navy said.
The 13 border guards initially thought to have been killed were defending the remote Zmiinyi (Snake) Island, a largely uninhabited but strategically important strip of land in the Black Sea, about 186 miles west of Crimea when a Russian vessel approached on Thursday.
Russian soldiers onboard the vessel told the guards to lay down their weapons, saying they would be “bombed” otherwise, according to audio clips picked up by local media and shared online.
Two Ukrainian guards can be heard saying “should I tell them to go f*** themselves?” before responding: “Russian warship, go f*** yourself.”
An earlier statement from Ukraine suggested they were then killed by air and sea strikes. Ukraine’s interior ministry said the audio recording was authentic, and the soldiers – who it had presumed were dead – would be given military honours.
Russia denied killing the soldiers, saying they had surrendered.
Five days into Russia’s invasion, at least 16 children have been killed and another 45 wounded, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky says.
At least 352 civilians have been killed, Ukraine’s health ministry said on Sunday. Exact death tolls are unclear and it is believed many more are dead or wounded. Millions of people have fled their homes.
UN Secretary General António Guterres said the fighting “must stop now”.
“Russian missile and air bombardments are pounding Ukrainian cities day and night,” he said. “The capital, Kyiv, is encircled and under attack from all sides,” he said.
“This escalating violence - which is resulting in civilian deaths, including children - is totally unacceptable. Enough is enough. Soldiers need to move back to their barracks. Leaders need to move to peace.”
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