Snake Island heroes who told Putin warship ‘go f*** yourself’ freed in PoW swap

Snake Island heroes who told Putin warship 'go f*** yourself' freed in PoW swap
The tiny island became a symbol of Ukrainian defiance on the war’s first day when guards famously told an approaching Russian warship to ‘go f*** yourself’ (Picture: Reuters)

Ukraine has secured the release of 19 heroic defenders of Snake Island as part of a prisoner swap with Russia.

The tiny island became a symbol of Ukrainian defiance on the war’s first day when guards famously told an approaching Russian warship to ‘go f*** yourself’.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said 75 Ukrainian prisoners had been returned from Russia, including defenders of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and fighters from the besieged city of Mariupol.

The bodies of more than 200 fallen Ukrainian soldiers were also handed over as part of the exchange.

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Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) shout slogans while they pose for a picture after a swap, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, at an unknown location in Ukraine May 31, 2024. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) shout slogans while they pose for a picture after a swap (Picture: Reuters)

The returnees were seen singing a patriotic song led by former PoW Konstantin Mirgorodsky as they were driven to meet their families after release from detention in Russia. 

One emotional reunion involved policewoman Maryana Chechelyuk, 24, who was feared dead after being held in Olenivka detention centre where dozens of Ukrainian prisoners were massacred.

The young police officer had been in the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol when defenders surrendered to the Russians. 

She was separated from her younger sister and taken to a brutal filtration camp.

In August 2022, human rights activists expressed alarm over her fate in Russian hands. 

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Ukrainian defenders of Snake – or Zmiyinyi – Island in the Black Sea spent more than 800 days in Russian captivity. 

Moscow seized the island but later retreated in a humiliating setback for Vladimir Putin which was styled bizarrely a ‘gesture of goodwill’.

The Russian vessel – the Moskva, flagship of the Black Sea Fleet – was later sunk in a Ukrainian missile strike, perhaps Putin’s biggest single setback of the war.

Zelensky visited the strategic rock outcrop to mark the 500th day of the war. 

President Zelensky seen visiting Zmiiny (Snake) Island to pay tribute to defenders on the 500th day of Vladimir Putin’s war (Picture: Volodymyr Zelensky/east2west news)
President Zelensky seen visiting Zmiiny (Snake) Island to pay tribute to defenders on the 500th day of Vladimir Putin’s war (Picture: Volodymyr Zelensky/east2west news)

He said today: ‘Throughout all of this time, we have not stopped working for a single day to bring everyone home from Russian captivity.

‘We remember every person. We are making every effort to find each and every one of our people. I am grateful to the team responsible for the exchanges.’

The same number of Russians – 75 – were also returned home in a swap brokered by the United Arab Emirates. 

It was the first PoW exchange since February. 

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

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