Ukraine has pushed Russian forces to abandon the Snake Island, a small but strategic outpost in the Black Sea, the Operation Command South said on June 30. According to the Ukrainian military, “the enemy hastily evacuated the remnants of the garrison in two speedboats and probably left the island.” Russia’s Defense Ministry confirmed its forces had left the island. However, it called the withdrawal “a gesture of goodwill” rather than a defeat, adding that the troops “had completed their mission” and were withdrawing to demonstrate Russia’s willingness to allow for grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.
Andriy Yermak, head of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, slammed the statement as “complete fake,” adding that Russian troops were pushed out of the outpost as a result of a “remarkable” operation conducted by Ukraine’s Armed Forces. “Russia continues to provoke a food crisis, and lie. They are still blocking our ports and destroying grain,” he wrote on Telegram. Yermak mentioned the most recent attack on the town of Zelenodolsk, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, that on June 30 destroyed a warehouse containing 40 tonnes of grain.
Why Snake Island is so important
Snake Island became an infamous symbol of resistance for Ukrainians in the early stage of the war when Russia’s Black Sea warship Moskva arrived at its shores to request the surrender of its guardpost. In response, a border guard sent a message: “Russian warship, go f*ck yourself.” The Russian ship then bombed the island. The phrase went viral and became widely adopted among Ukrainian soldiers and civilians alike. The incident was later imprinted on a Ukrainian postage stamp. A day after the stamp was issued, Ukraine sank the Moskva ship using two Neptune anti-ship cruise missiles. Snake Island defenders were taken prisoners following the Russian seizure of the island, with most defenders later part of subsequent prisoner exchanges.
Located around 35 kilometers off the shore of Ukraine’s southwest Odesa Oblast and being less than a quarter of a square kilometer in size, the Snake Island remains crucial for control of the western Black Sea, according to Kyrylo Budanov, head of the Defense Ministry’s Intelligence Directorate.
Since April, Ukrainian forces have been fighting to regain control over the island by bombarding Russian troops on the island with missiles and now artillery. “For Russia, as well as for Ukraine, Snake Island is a strategically important point as it gives control over absolutely all trade routes to Ukraine. In fact, it gives control over the entire surface and to some extent the air situation in southern Ukraine,” he said. Budanov added that the outpost was also crucial for Russia as it was the only region where it could try to land troops from the Russian-occupied Transnistria region of Moldova.
Oleksii Hromov, deputy head of the General Staff’s main operational directorate, said regaining control over the island would allow Ukraine to resist the Russian blockade of Odesa.
Comment: Gesture of goodwill my ass. Just like the attempted assault on Kyiv was a feint. Only a few days ago, Russia released a story of the heroic efforts of Deputy Fleet Commander Major General Mikhail Yasnikov in transferring a Pantsir air defense system to Snake Island by floating crane and landing craft. HI Sutton of @CovertShores relays the tale.
According to the account, during the unloading, Ukraine hit the island with Tochka-U. No one was hurt. After 20 minutes, the anti-aircraft missile-gun complex was unloaded onto the pier personally by Major General Yasnikov. Now the propaganda gets even stronger… After 20 mins the radar started working on the Pantsir, it took up combat duty. Within a few moments, three anti-aircraft guided missiles were fired, which for a moment outstripped the gap of another “Tochka-U” aimed at our guys. Major General Yasnikov was then unloading a Tor-M2 with the crane when Pantsir engaged Neptune anti-ship missile that was heading for a floating crane. Um… maybe.”
Don’t know about the heroic modern major general, but the Pantsir and Tor were recently delivered to the island. Too bad his heroics were for naught. A few days ago, the Ukrainians stopped attacking the island with missiles and began using artillery, probably the French Caesar and the home-grown Bogdana self-propelled 155mm howitzer. The Bogdana is similar to the Caesar in appearance and capabilities. It first appeared in 2018 in a Ukrainian Independence Day parade. The may be just one Bogdana in existence. Other say there are certainly less than ten.
Not to be outdone by Russia’s heroic tale of the modern major general, the Ukrainian MOD put out a slick video of the 2S22 Bogdana in action against the Russians on Snake Island. The artillery strike was adjusted by a TB2 Byraktar drone. It appears a smaller drone was first flown over the island to draw the fire of the Pantsir and reveal its position. The results of the artillery strikes are evident in that photo above and the admitted Russian abandonment of the island.
Will the Ukrainians try to reoccupy the island? Perhaps. I hope not. If they did, the occupying troops would probably be subject to intense missile bombardment from the Black Sea Fleet. Better to maintain fire control over the island with long range, and damned accurate, artillery and keep the Russians away from it.