EXCLUSIVE: Ukrainian soldier who told a Russian warship to ‘go f*** yourself’ was starved and beaten by Putin’s troops who captured him, it is revealed, as he insists: ‘I’m no hero’
- Border guard Roman Hrybov refused to surrender to Russians on Snake Island
- The 32-year-old was held for a month in a ‘hellish’ secret Kremlin prison
- His mother said he was degraded, starved and beaten before being released
The Ukrainian soldier who told a Kremlin navy warship to ‘go f*** yourself’ was starved and beaten in a ‘hellish’ Russian prison after being captured, it has been revealed.
Border guard Roman Hrybov, 32, and his comrades defiantly refused to surrender on the strategically important Snake Island in the Black Sea on the first day of the war.
They were captured and held for a month in a secret jail in Russia where Hrybov lost 22 pounds and was ‘degraded’, but he insists he is ‘not a hero’.
He was returned to Ukraine in a prisoner swap last week and is now back home in Cherkasy, and wants to highlight the plight of 72 other Ukrainian prisoners who continue to languish in the jail where he was held.
His mother Tetiana Rudolfivna Hrybova told MailOnline: ‘Roman suffered terribly at the hands of the Russians. He was starved and beaten and subjected to degrading treatment. He lost 10kg.
The Ukrainian soldier who told a Kremlin navy warship to ‘go f*** yourself’ was starved and beaten in a ‘hellish’ Russian prison
His mother Tetiana Rudolfivna Hrybova (pictured) said her son ‘suffered terribly at the hands of the Russians’
‘But he says he is not a hero. He is only interested in helping the other soldiers get out of the Russian jail where he was held.’
Soldier Evgeniy Goncharenko, who took Roman back to his unit after the prisoner exchange, said: ‘Roman and his comrades were treated badly.
‘The Russians beat them. The soldiers got very cold. There was nowhere for them to sleep.
‘They had to sit on the cold floor with their hands on their heads.
‘They were not allowed to go to the toilet. It was degrading.’
Hrybov, 32, and his comrades defiantly refused to surrender on the strategically important Snake Island in the Black Sea on the first day of the war
After learning that he was being held prisoner, his mother set up a shrine to him at her home in Cherkasy and prayed every day for his safe release
He added: ‘The Russians even beat the civilians who were taken prisoner. They treated them like soldiers.’
Roman’s 13-strong unit was at first feared to have been killed when the Russian ship opened fire on their remote outpost on Snake Island around 180 miles west of Crimea.
Ukrainian defence officials hailed their bravery as they issued a recording of Roman’s radio conversation with an officer on the ship who was demanding their surrender.
But it emerged three days later that the border guards had miraculously escaped death and ended up being captured by Russian forces and held for a month in a military jail at a secret location
Tetiana at first refused to believe it was her son’s voice in the defiant radio message which emerged the day after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Roman’s 13-strong unit was at first feared to have been killed when the Russian ship opened fire on their remote outpost on Snake Island (pictured)
Soldier Evgeniy Goncharenko (pictured), who took Roman back to his unit after the prisoner exchange, said: ‘Roman and his comrades were treated badly’
The Ukrainian Parliament confirmed sailors who were captured as they defended a small island in the Black Sea have been freed in a prisoner exchange with Moscow
She could not accept his death, even after Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said the border guards had all ‘died heroically’ without surrendering and would be getting posthumously getting Hero of Ukraine awards, the country’s highest honour.
After learning that he was being held prisoner, she set up a shrine to him at her home in Cherkasy and prayed every day for his safe release.
Tetiana said she ‘almost fainted’ when her prayers were seemingly answered and she heard his voice after he was freed.
Speaking of the moment, she first heard the recording of his message of defiance, she told MailOnline: ‘I didn’t want to believe it was Roman, I refused to believe he was killed.
‘But then I learned that my son was being held prisoner. It was torment. I almost collapsed.
Tetiana at first refused to believe it was her son’s voice in the defiant radio message which emerged the day after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 (pictured left, aged 18, and right, aged four)
‘I made a shrine to him in corner in the room and every day I came here to chat and tell him photos of what was happening.
‘And when we met after the captivity, he said he heard me.’
Roman and his friends had been stationed on the 40-acre Snake Island near the Ukrainian and Romanian coasts on the Black Sea.
The rocky island – known as Zmiinyi Island in Ukrainian – has a marine research station and is understood to be strategically important because of its resources including petroleum.
The recording of a Naval radio channel featured a Russian officer giving an ultimatum to Ukrainian forces on the island to surrender or face being annihilated.
Hrybov, whose viral statement of defiance in the face of near certain death as a Russian warship attacked Ukraine’s Snake Island, has been awarded a civic medal
The voice said: ‘This is a military warship. This is a Russian military warship. I suggest you lay down your weapons and surrender to avoid bloodshed and needless casualties. Otherwise, you will be bombed. Do you copy?’
After a short period of silence, Roman is heard asking a colleague, ‘Well this is it, should I tell him to go fuck himself?’ Another voice said, ‘Just in case…’
The volume was turned up as Roman responded: ‘Russian warship, go fuck yourself.’
His words came to epitomise the David v Goliath spirit that has marked Ukraine’s spirited resistance against the Russian war machine
Roman’s pugnacious message even prompted a patriotic poster campaign across the nation.
A civil medal presented to Hrybov by Igor Taburets, the head of Cherkasy’s regional administration
A civilian ship called ‘Sapphire’ was sent to Snake Island to check on casualties after the island was seized by the Russians, but the crew also ended up being captured
Roman has now been granted a few days leave, and has returned home to Cherkasy where he was given a medal by the local civic authorities
But the soldier, who is due to be returning to service, is only interested in saving his brothers in arms.
His mother added: ‘Roman has been given military awards, but he does not want to receive any of these.
‘He does not want to be a hero. He is worried about his brothers who are in captivity. That is the only thing that is important to him.’
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