Ukraine's famously defiant soldiers appear to be alive after all. The story went viral after Russia launched its invasion: After a Russian warship ordered troops guarding Snake Island to surrender, one of the soldiers was heard on audio telling the warship to "go f--- yourself." Early accounts said all 13 island guards were killed in a subsequent Russian assault. President Volodymyr Zelensky even said he would posthumously grant them "Hero of Ukraine" awards. Now, however, Ukraine's Navy has announced a twist: "We are very happy to learn that our brothers are alive and well," the Navy said on social media, per Euronews. "The Marines and frontier guards [were] captured by the Russian occupiers on Snake Island."
The Navy statement came after the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine announced it had a "strong belief" the soldiers were alive, reports the Guardian. Russia had denied the initial reports the soldiers were killed and released TV footage of what it claimed were the detainees. Skeptics didn't buy it, though it now appears the footage was legit. The Ukraine Navy says Russia also captured a nonmilitary vessel that went to the island on what it described as a humanitarian mission after the reported deaths. "We demand from the Russian Federation immediate release of illegally captured citizens of Ukraine," says the Navy. (Read more Ukraine stories.)