Ukrainian soldiers initially believed to have died after standing up to Russian warships on Snake Island, but were actually taken as prisoners, have been freed from captivity.
On Thursday, Ukraine’s parliament announced on Twitter that the 19 Ukrainian soldiers, who shouted the legendary phrase "Russian warship go f--- yourself," had been released in exchange for 11 Russian soldiers rescued from a sinking ship near the city of Odessa.
⚡️ 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")
— Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine - Ukrainian Parliament (@ua_parliament) March 24, 2022
NPR reported that Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on the social media and chat app Telegram that Ukraine exchanged 10 Russian “captured occupiers” for 10 Ukrainian servicemen.
Vereshchuk said it was the first prisoner swap since the Russian invasion began.
News of the exchange comes after Ukraine's border guard agency demanded on Thursday the return of the Snake Island soldiers, NPR and the Miami Herald reported.
The Snake Island soldiers were initially feared dead after they were heard on an audiotape defiantly saying, “Russian warship, go f–k yourself" after being told to "lay down your weapons" or "be bombed" by the Russian Navy.
But on Feb. 28, the Ukrainian Navy said that "we are very happy to learn that our brothers are alive."
On Thursday, Vereshchuk added that the Snake Island soldiers would return home aboard the Sapphire, a ship initially captured by Russia while attempting to take the Ukrainian soldiers off the island.
The ship will then be sent to a dock in Turkey, Vereshchuk said.