Russia withdraws from Snake Island after intense Ukrainian military offensive
Important victory for Ukraine. The Snake Island, key to dominate the city of Odessa and to subdue the Ukrainian coast, has experienced in recent weeks intense fighting by Ukrainian forces, who were trying to take control of this strategic enclave after losing it at the beginning of the war unleashed with the invasion ordered by Vladimir Putin on February 24.
In the last hours, the fighting has ended with the withdrawal of Russian troops in two speedboats after a series of explosions that have left a fire in the area. Ukrainian Army personnel have indicated that “there are no Russians left” on the island, according to information gathered by the Ukrinform news agency. The Armed Forces have also indicated that during the operation several anti-aircraft defense systems, a communications station and artillery systems have been destroyed in an operation that is a major victory for Ukraine that could loosen Russia’s grain export blockade.
News of the withdrawal has been confirmed by Moscow. “On June 30, as a goodwill measure, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation completed their assigned tasks on Zmiiyiy Island (Snake Island) and withdrew the garrison stationed there,” military spokesman Igor Konashenkov announced on the Defense Ministry’s official Telegram account. However, Russia’s explanation for this withdrawal is different from the one provided by Kiev.
Moscow says that the withdrawal “demonstrates to the international community that Russia does not interfere in the UN efforts to organize a humanitarian corridor for the export of agricultural products from the territory of Ukraine.”
No Russian troops on the Snake Island anymore. Our Armed Forces did a great job.
More kaboom news to follow. All will be 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/ItdP3oQvHK
— Andriy Yermak (@AndriyYermak) June 30, 2022
The Russian withdrawal from this enclave is a full-fledged defeat for Moscow’s forces and possibly undermines its control over vital shipping routes. Just a week ago the Kremlin boasted of having repelled a Ukrainian attempt to retake the island, so its withdrawal now is another example of Moscow’s reduction of military objectives forced by stubborn Ukrainian resistance.
The commander of the Ukrainian armed forces has thanked foreign partners for sending Harpoon anti-ship missiles, which are believed to have been used to drive the Russians off the island. Ukraine’s southern military command posted an image on Facebook of what appeared to be the island, as seen from the air, with five huge plumes of black smoke rising above what it described as a missile and artillery attack.
Natalia Humeniuk, a spokeswoman for the Ukrainian military’s southern command, said Tuesday that Ukraine had destroyed three anti-aircraft missile systems recently installed on the island. She said the most recent attack had rendered the radar station inoperable, making it impossible to provide assistance to Russian troops on the island.
For weeks, Ukraine has been fighting in this area and reportedly lost dozens of drones in the area around Snake Island, including several Bayraktar TB2 drones. Since April 14, 2022, Snake Island became the center of gravity of the war over Ukraine with the sinking of the Russian warship Moskva.
Snake Island, located about 50 kilometers from the mouth of the Danube and 300 km from the Russian Navy’s Sevastopol naval base, is a small territory in the middle of the sea. It is a strategic place because its orography constitutes an unbeatable shooting platform and also because it blocks the passage of ships to the Ukrainian coast. It was the scene of battles such as that of Fidonisi in 1788 and during World War II it housed an Axis radio under Romanian control.
The islet gained world fame three months ago when a Ukrainian border guard, Roman Grybov, who was captured with twelve comrades by the Russians on the small island, responded with a raised middle finger to the demand for surrender by the commanders of the other flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, the “Moskva”, sunk in April by Ukraine.
Until now, it served as a territory to delimit the exclusive economic zones of Romania and Ukraine. The two countries disputed control in the past until the International Court of Justice ruled in 2009 that it was Ukrainian territory.
New #satelliteimagery from today, June 30, 2022, of #SnakeIsland in the Black Sea. In today’s imagery, smoke can be seen from burning vehicles/structures at several locations across the northern section of the island. pic.twitter.com/8wE4QGXnuj
— Maxar Technologies (@Maxar) June 30, 2022