A Ukrainian soldier who told an officer on a Russian warship to fuck himself early in the invasion has been released as part of a prisoner swap and awarded a medal for his services, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said on Tuesday.
Roman Hrybov, a Ukrainian border guard, was serving on Snake Island – a rocky outcrop south of the port of Odessa – when it came under Russian air and sea bombardment on the first day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
When the detachment was ordered to lay down their arms, Hrybov radioed back with a defiant, “Russian warship, go fuck yourself.”
According to initial reports, 13 border guards have died on the island after refusing to surrender. But just days later, Ukraine’s state border guard said the soldiers were still alive and had been captured by Russia.
Adding to the confusion, Ukraine’s parliament later said that 19 soldiers (not 13 as originally reported) had been released as part of the first major prisoner swap with Russia. In an interview with Russian journalists on Sunday, Zekensky said that “some of the soldiers died, some were captured.”
“All prisoners were exchanged. Russia made this proposal. We exchanged them without hesitation… Those who died are heroes,” Zelenskyy said.
#Ukraine Roman Hrybov, the Ukrainian soldier who said the now famous phrase “Russian warship, fuck yourself” when asked to surrender, returned home. It was initially assumed that Hrybov and all of the border guards on Snake Island were killed. Hrybov was captured by Russians pic.twitter.com/RVzfzK3ii4
— Hanna Liubakova (@HannaLiubakova) March 29, 2022
The Defense Ministry of Ukraine said on Tuesday that Hrybov is now at home in the city of Cherkasy and tweeted a video of Hrybov receiving a medal for his actions from local authorities.
Footage of the radio exchange on Snake Island, in which Hrybov was involved, received widespread internet coverage and quickly spread across various social media channels. The phrase became a rallying cry for the defenders of Ukraine and was honored on a postage stamp of Ukraine.
The use of the phrase by Ukrainian society has been praised as one of the examples of how the country attempted to undermine the legitimacy of the Russian invasion through non-military means.
However, the Snake Island incident has also been cited as a case study of how uncorroborated information could spread during the war.