The infamous Ukrainian border guard who told an invading Russian warship to “go fuck yourself,” at the inception of the current invasion was not killed—despite initial reporting that his entire unit was obliterated by the opposing Navy. Instead, information later revealed that many had been captured. Now, the soldier has been released as part of a prisoner exchange and awarded a medal for his bravery, as reported by The Guardian.
The honoured hero in question, Roman Hrybov, was stationed on Zmiinyi (Snake) Island, located in the Black Sea, when the 2022 Russian invasion launched on 24 February. Just the following day, the soldiers positioned on the remote island were given an ultimatum by a Russian warship, calling them to either surrender or be hit.
In a recording of the incident, the imposing Russian ship said, “Snake Island, I am a Russian warship. I suggest you lay your arms down and surrender. Otherwise you will be hit. Do you copy?” To which Hrybov can be heard replying, “Well, this is it. Should I tell him to go fuck himself? […] Russian warship, go fuck yourself.”
A Ukrainian official reported at the time that the entire garrison of 13 border guards (which have also been reported as 19) had been killed after losing contact with them. However, days later it was discovered that they had eventually surrendered and have since returned to Ukraine as part of a prisoner swap. President Zelensky told Russian journalists on Sunday that, “some of the soldiers died, some were taken prisoner.”
“All those who were taken prisoner were exchanged. Russia came up with this proposal. We exchanged them without hesitation… Those who died, they are heroes,” the leader continued. A video, which was released on Twitter by Ukraine’s defence minister and has since been shared infinite times across the internet, shows Hrybov rightfully receiving a medal for his service and conduct.
The impact of Hrybov’s words to the Russian ship incited a widespread unifying phrase that became the rallying cry for Ukraine in the early days of the recent war. The virality of his words sparked an unbridled respect for those brave enough to stand up against Russian forces—with the phrase even commemorated as a postage stamp.