As Russian forces swept into Ukraine on February 24, Ukrainians responded with a defiance that inspired the world.
One of the first tales of heroism to come out of the war was the Snake Island incident, where 13 border guards stationed on a rocky outcrop 186 miles west of Crimea responded “go f**k yourself” when an officer on board the Russian cruiser Moskva ordered them to surrender.
The Russian naval commander radioed: ”I suggest you lay down your weapons and surrender to avoid bloodshed and needless casualties. Otherwise, you will be bombed."
But the defenders, despite being massively outnumbered and outgunned, responded: "Russian warships, go f*** yourselves!"
Now their bold gesture has been immortalised in Ukraine ’s first new postage stamp since the conflict began.
The stamp, illustrated by artist Boris Groh, shows a solitary Ukrainian serviceman flipping the bird at a heavily-armed warship. The design had received the most votes in a competition held by the Ukrainian postal service, said Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, Emine Dzheppar.
Alongside Ukraine’s dogged resistance on the battlefield, the country has won the battle for hearts and minds around the world with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy leading a perfectly-judged propaganda war.
An NFT of the Ukrainian flag, backed by Russia ’s all-female anti-establishment punk rock band Pussy Riot, has raised $6.7m for the country’s defences. Ukraine’s decision to accept donations via cryptocurrency has spurred enormous donations worldwide.
The men of Snake Island were originally believed to have died in a massive Russian naval bombardment, and President Zelenskyy announced that all thirteen of them would posthumously be awarded the title Hero of Ukraine, the country’s highest military honour.
However, Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service later reported that the 13 guards were now believed to be prisoners of war. On 27 February it issued a statement saying that they believed "that all Ukrainian defenders of Zmiiniy Island may be alive"
Even so, their defiant cry of “Russian warship, go f**k yourself” has become a popular slogan for Ukrainians, a symbol of their refusal to give up no matter how overwhelming the odds.
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