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5 May, 03:26 PM

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Ukrainian border guard Roman Hrybov on his message to the Russian warship Moskva, and his time in enemy captivity

“We thought we were going to be shot,” says Roman Hrybov, the Ukrainian border guard who uttered the now-immortal phrase “Russian warship, go f*ck yourself” as he defended Ukraine’s Zmiinyi Island on the first day of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Russia's war against Ukraine - the main events of may 5

The phrase has since become a slogan encapsulating Ukrainians’ spirit of resistance to Russian invasion and aggression.

Hrybov has now spoken to the media about how the Russian soldiers treated their prisoners, and how he returned from enemy captivity.

Hrybov, a 31-year-old Ukrainian border guard, told a Russian warship where to go on Feb. 24, in response to an offer to surrender during the Russian attack on Zmiinyi Island. The recording of his answer went viral on the Web and became a symbol of the struggle against the Russian invaders.

In his home town Cherkasy, ​​he is known as DJ Romeo, because he used to be constantly responsible for music at discos. According to him, music is still an integral part of his life.

Hrybov spoke to Ukrainian medi Suspіlne Cherkasy about his experiences.

Immediately upon his return from captivity, he visited his family, he says.

“I have been staying at home for a month. I saw my mother first, went to her, and then went to my wife. I just wanted to spend a day or two with my wife, and then I wanted to see friends, comrades, because everyone was worried about me,” Hrybov said. He said that his relatives had appealed to the relevant authorities to achieve his release from captivity.

Hrybov also said why he had decided to join the military. As it turned out, he had dreamed about it since childhood.

“I went to the Military Commissariat in my city and took a referral. I wanted to join the Special Forces in the Ukrainian Naval Infantry and ended up in Odesa. I think these are one of the elite units of Ukraine, so I wanted to get there ... In 2018, I signed a contract and I began to serve in Odesa Oblast.”

Photo from the personal archive of Roman Hrybov / Фото: screenshot

“When we saw Russian orcs on the horizon, we realized that a full-scale war had begun,” Hrybov says. “Sea-borne troops arrived, played their famous record that we should surrender, or be bombed. It was a little scary, but I wanted to give them a decent answer. For some reason, this phrase inspired people, became a slogan from the first day of the war. Since this phrase cheered up our people a little, my mother supported it, although it’s not a very nice phrase. But I'm already an adult, and can speak like that.”

Hrybov also added that the Russians did not know that he was the one who had addressed the warship: “They did not know who said this. And that's good, because I think I would have been treated badly in that case. I wouldn't have got home.”

The Russians moved their prisoners three times – first to the Crimea, then to tented camps, and then to a detention center: “We were treated worse than dogs. When (we) got into detention center, we were dressed in the uniform of prisoners. Since we did not have any information about what was happening in Ukraine while we were staying there, they pressured us (by saying) they had already captured Ukraine, and that it made no sense for us to return.”

Despite this, Hrybov admitted that he always had the hope that they would be released from captivity.

He said that he had prayed every day and was mentally with his family. When the prisoners were taken to the exchange, they were not told where they were going.

“(They put) nooses around their necks, their hands were tied and they were thrown into the car like meat. They covered them with some stuff from above and drove for three or four hours. Many were suffocating, because the nooses around their necks were tightened and no one loosened them... Nobody expected that we were going to be exchanged. But at the last moment they said that there was an exchange. And we had thought we were going to be shot.”

Hrybov also commented on the popularity that he received thanks to the phrase about the Russian warship: “It was a very energetic vacation, I met a lot of people, I visited a lot of places. Everything was fine, and I’m ready to move on. I'm returning to service. Back to service. The enemy invaded my country, it shall be defended. Truth is ours, victory is ours.”

In the wake of the incident with Hrybov, state mail company Ukrposhta issued a new stamp featuring a Ukrainian soldier gesturing at the missile cruiser Moskva, the flag ship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, and the legend “Russian warship, go f*ck yourself.”

The stamp was massively popular and issues sold out quickly.

However, the stamp has become slightly obsolete, as Ukraine has since sunk the Moskva in an attack with its Neptune anti-ship missiles.

Ukrposhta has now announced the release of a “Russian warship… DONE” stamp.

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