The group of Ukrainian troops were defending Snake Island in the Black Sea when they were approached by a Russian warship, and were believed to have been killed. File Photo courtesy Фотонак/Wikimedia
Feb. 28 (UPI) -- A group of more than a dozen Ukrainian soldiers who were hailed as heroes last week -- after they supposedly died while cussing out invading Russian troops -- are, in fact, alive and well, Ukrainian officials said Monday.
The group of 13 Ukrainian border guards were defending remote Snake Island in the Black Sea when they were approached by a Russian warship and told to surrender.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had even said the guards would receive the honorary title of "Hero of Ukraine" for telling a Russian warship to "go f--- yourself" while defending Snake Island.
The Ukrainian Navy said on Monday, however, that it was "very happy to learn that our brothers are alive and well." However, they are now in Russian custody.
"They were illegally captured by the Russians," the navy said in a statement posted to Facebook. "We demand from Russia the immediate release of illegally occupied citizens of Ukraine."
Ukrainian officials also said that members of a humanitarian mission sent to the island, after the soldiers were believed to be dead, were also illegally captured by Russian forces.
"The illegal seizure of a non-combatant civilian ship that did not carry out any military tasks is a violation of the rules and customs of war and international humanitarian law," the Ukrainian Navy said, according to a translation by Euronews.
Officials said the confusion about the soldiers' well-being was caused when Russian troops bombed the island and destroyed communications and infrastructure.
European Union leaders attend a summit at the Chateau de Versailles near Paris on March 11, 2022. Photo by the European Union/ UPI | License Photo