A group of heroic Ukrainian sailors who inspired their nation – and the rest of the world – when they told the Russians to “go f**k themselves” have been released.
The brave sailors hit the headlines within the opening hours of the brutal war when they refused to surrender to a Russian warship that wanted to take over Snake Island, which they were defending.
Audio was released of the captain of the ship warning the 19 men to surrender or face being bombed on the tiny island, which is about 30 miles off the coast of Ukraine. They were told to “lay down your arms and surrender to avoid bloodshed and unnecessary victims”.
But one of the sailors could be heard discussing with his mates how to respond: “So that’s it… Should I tell them to f*** themselves? Russian warship, go f*** yourself.”
It was initially feared that their brave response had cost them their lives, but it later emerged that they’d been captured from the rescue ship Sapphire.
Now they have been released in a prisoner exchange, with 50 military and civilian prisoners handed back in the largest swap reported so far.
The development was announced by Ukraine's deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk, who said Ukraine had returned 11 Russian civilian sailors rescued from a sunken ship near Odesa.
The news of the heroes’ release was confirmed by the Ukrainian parliament's official Twitter account, which gleefully seized the opportunity to repeat the immortal words that had been directed at the Russian ship.
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It read: “The first exchange of war hostages occurred on President @ZelenskyyUa's order. Additionally, today, #Ukraine exchanged 11 Russian sailors we rescued from a sunken ship near #Odesa to 19 Ukrainian sailors (authors of the legendary phrase "Russian warship, go f*** yourself")".
The development comes as the Russian invasion moves into its second month, with Vladimir Putin’s expectations of securing a lightning victory now just a distant memory.
Brave Ukrainian resistance has seen the Russians pushed back in many parts of the country.
But Putin has been resorting to ever-more brutal methods, with fears growing that he is prepared to exacerbate things yet further.
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