Thirteen Ukrainian soldiers thought killed after telling a Russian warship to "go f*** yourself" are in fact "alive and well", the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence has said.
The soldiers, who had been defending Zmiinyi (Snake) Island off Ukraine's south coast, made headlines around the world after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said they had been killed following their defiant message and would be posthumously recognised with his country’s highest honour.
But the group was actually taken prisoner, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence.
It said it had learned of their survival after a civilian ship called "Sapphire" was sent to Snake Island to investigate its condition and check on the casualties.
"We were very happy to learn that our brothers are alive and well!" The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence said in a statement, but all those on Sapphire were "illegally captured by the Russians".
Listen: Ukrainian soldiers tell Russian warship to 'go f*** yourself':
The Ukrainian MoD said the island's infrastructure had been "completely destroyed" by the Russian attack, which is why it lost contact with its soldiers, believing they had not survived.
"We are waiting to receive our brothers and sisters back," the statement added.
A recording of the exchange, which was played around the world, indicates two Ukrainian soldiers were at the radio when the Russian warship made contact.
“This is it,” says one of them.
“Should I tell him to go f*** himself?’
His colleague whispers “just in case…..”
Then the volume is turned up.
“Russian warship, go f*** yourself.”
The Ukrainian MoD said it was appealing to the international community "to take all possible measures to influence Russia in order to help bring back our citizens".
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It comes as Ukraine emerges from a weekend-long curfew, as shelling and blasts were heard in the capital and in cities across the country before dawn.
Shortly after the curfew was lifted on Monday morning, to allow residents to leave their homes and shelters to buy food and use public transport, air raid sirens could be heard across the city. The curfew will be reimposed between 8pm until 7am on Tuesday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed 16 Ukrainian children have been killed and another 45 injured in the days since the Kremlin launched its invasion.
Among those was fourth-grade pupil Polina and her parents, who were were shot dead by Russian forces in the capital, Kyiv, on Saturday.
President Zelenskyy detailed the death toll during a video message on Monday, adding that “every crime, every shelling by the occupiers bring our partners and us even closer.”