UPDATE: The Ukrainian soldiers who defended Snake Island from a Russian warship are actually all alive – a welcome bit of news after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy mistakenly confirmed their deaths last week following a brave act of resistance.
According to CNN, the Ukrainian Navy confirmed in a statement that all the soldiers on the tiny island are “alive and well,” despite being attacked twice by the Russian forces and being forced to surrender “due to the lack of ammunition.”
The statement also said that the Russian attack completely destroyed the island’s infrastructure – towers, antennas and lighthouses were all decimated.
Russian state media showed the arrival of the Ukrainian soldiers in Sevastopol, Crimea where they are being held.
ORIGINAL STORY: Ukraine says it will posthumously honour a group of Ukrainian border guards who were killed after they reportedly told an officer on board a Russian navy warship to “go f— yourself” when asked to surrender.
The 13 border guards were defending the tiny Snake Island, also known as Zmiinyi Island, in the Black Sea during Russia’s multi-pronged invasion.
All the soldiers died after the Russians reportedly launched a strike on the island when the Ukrainian troops refused to surrender.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed the death of the soldiers in his address to the nation Thursday evening, announcing all of the soldiers would posthumously be given the Hero of Ukraine award.
“All border guards died heroically but did not give up,” Zelenskyy said.
In an unverified recording of the clip, first released by Ukrainian news outlet Ukrayinska Pravda, a Russian official tells the Snake Island guards: “This is a military warship. This is a Russian military warship. I suggest you lay down your weapons and surrender to avoid bloodshed and needless casualties. Otherwise, you will be bombed.”
Two Ukrainian guards are heard speaking between themselves before one of them responds “Russian warship, go f— yourself.”
Ukrainian officials confirmed the authenticity of the recording to The Washington Post. The outlet also reports that a separate recording was posted to TikTok, showing what appears to be a border guard on the island cursing after coming under fire. His TikTok profile lists him as a 23-year-old from the port city of Odesa on the Black Sea.
According to the BBC, the official Russian account of the exchange is quite different. Russian officials claim that the island was surrendered to them voluntarily and they make no mention of a bombing or any casualties. (Global News has not been able to independently verify the audio’s authenticity.)
Disinformation experts are warning those following the conflict that they should expect to see a lot of state-backed propaganda coming from Russia.
“We’re going to see a huge onslaught,” Jane Lytvynenko, a senior research fellow at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, told NBC News. “And we need to be prepared for that.”
Lytvynenko said the Russian government will use authentic videos and photographs to push false narratives.
“We know that propaganda is a part of every war, and we know that after every attack we see a flood of propaganda,” she told NBC. “This propaganda can take many forms. It can try to take videos out of context and claim for them to be something else. It can show Russian attacks as more powerful than they actually were.
“They can create the illusion that Ukraine is not fighting back when it is. It will also play on gaps in knowledge on Western audiences in particular who have not been paying attention to a war that has been going on for eight years.”
Explosions rocked Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv on Friday as Russian forces close in on the city on the second day of a full-scale invasion in eastern Europe.
Air raid sirens wailed over the capital of three million people, where some residents sheltered in underground metro stations while officials urged citizens to prepare Molotov cocktails to defend the city.
Earlier, Zelenskyy pleaded for Western allies to help defend Ukraine, accusing the world’s most powerful nations of “watching from afar.”
“This morning we are defending our state alone,” he said in an address to the nation Friday.
“Was Russia convinced by yesterday’s sanctions? We hear in our sky and see on our earth that this was not enough.”
While the Kremlin acknowledged the economic sanctions may create problems, the Russian government says it will not cut the country off at its knees.
“The main goal … was to ensure complete self-sufficiency and complete import substitution if necessary,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said. “To a large extent this goal has been achieved.”
“Undoubtedly there will be problems, but they will not be insurmountable.”
The Ukrainian government has called on its citizens to enlist in the army, and has also imposed martial law nationwide. Ukrainian men between the ages of 18 and 60 are now barred from leaving the country.
Russia’s defence ministry claims it had destroyed 118 Ukrainian military infrastructure sites over the past two days, while Ukraine’s deputy defence minister said Russian forces have lost about 2,800 servicemen and 80 tanks during the assault on the country.
None of the claims have been verified, and Moscow has not given a casualty count.
U.S. and Ukrainian officials say Russia aims to capture Kyiv and topple the government, which Putin regards as a puppet of the United States.
— With files from Global News