Ukraine says it will posthumously honour a group of Ukrainian border guards who were killed defending a tiny island in the Black Sea during a multi-pronged Russian invasion.
Ukraine lost contact with its forces on Zmiinyi (Snake) Island, a speck of land south of the port of Odesa, on Thursday after Russia conducted strikes from air and sea.
A Ukrainian official said 13 soldiers were killed and he circulated an audio clip that he and media outlet Ukrainskaya Pravda said was a verbal exchange between Ukrainian and Russian forces.
“This is a Russian warship. I propose you lay down your weapons and surrender to avoid bloodshed and unnecessary victims. Otherwise you will be bombed,” audio of the alleged Russian warning said.
“Russian warship, go f*** yourself,” reportedly came the reply by Ukraine troops.
Anton Herashchenko, an adviser to the interior minister, said Russia then began strikes.
The authenticity of the recording could not be independently verified.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy promised in a speech summarising Thursday’s fighting to decorate the deceased border guards.
“On our Zmiinyi Island, defending it to the last, all the border guards died heroically. But they did not give up. All of them will be posthumously awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine,” he said in comments on his website.
On Friday, Russia’s defence ministry said 82 Ukrainian soldiers on the island had surrendered voluntarily. It made no mention of carrying out strikes or inflicting casualties.