Important win for Ukraine: Russia withdraws from the Snake Island

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Russian armed forces were forced to withdraw from Snake Island. This is important, and it is a significant victory for Ukraine.

In a recent movement Russian armed forces were forced to abandon Snake island in Ukraine. Ukraine says the last Russian units have probably been evacuated from Snake Island following a series of heavy strikes overnight. If confirmed, it’s a serious victory in the Black Sea.

Five pillars of smoke were recorded on Zmeiny (Snake) Island, and the satellite found a trace of a rocket launch. According to media Ukraine conduct  overnight air raids with missiles and destroyed entire Russian equipment.  However, judging by the fact that the photo was taken from a distance of about 50 kilometers, we are talking about quite serious smoke.

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In the presented photo you can see at least five serious pockets of smoke. 

If Ukraine were to retake the island it would weaken any plans Russia may have for a future land attack on that stretch of coastline.

Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, the commander of Ukraine’s armed forces, said Ukrainian-made Bohdana howitzers had played an important role in routing Russian forces from Snake Island, and he thanked foreign partners for their support.

Russia’s ministry of defence stated that it had completed its assigned tasks and was tactically withdrawing to allow for grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

“In order to organise humanitarian grain corridors as part of the implementation of joint agreements reached with the participation of the UN, the Russian Federation decided to leave its positions on Zmiinyi Island,” the defence ministry said.

Ukraine said it had forced Russian troops to flee overnight on two speed boats. The statement, by Ukraine’s southern command, said explosions could still be heard and the island was covered in smoke, appearing to indicate that battles were continuing.

Ukraine’s military intelligence chief, Kyrylo Budanov, said in May that the island was critically important to both Russia and Ukraine. He said whoever controlled Snake Island controlled the land – and to some extent air – security of southern Ukraine. He said at the time that Ukraine believed Russia could use the island to launch an invasion of western Ukraine and send troops into Moldova’s Transnistria region, where Russia already has troops stationed.

Ukraine’s armed forces have reported carrying out several attacks on the island since it was captured. On 2 May the army released a video of strikes carried on two Russian patrol boats near Snake Island.

Attacks increased on the island in the last two weeks. A spokesperson for Ukrainian’s southern command said on Monday that there was “ongoing operation” to liberate the island but it would likely go on for a long time. The southern command also released a video showing 10 strikes on the island, one of which allegedly shows the destruction of a Russian Pantsir-S1 air defence system.

The previous week, on 17 June, Ukrainian forces destroyed a Russian tug boat that they said was carrying ammunition, weapons and personnel to the island. On 20 June Ukraine targeted gas platforms near Snake Island that Russia had reportedly been using. The explosion was so loud that residents of Vylkove, the nearest Ukrainian land settlement, could hear it, according to residents interviewed by The Economist.

On 22 June Ukraine published a satellite image of the island. It said black dots represented places where Ukraine had successfully attacked Russian positions.

Russia appears to have responded by sending missiles into the Odesa region. Ukraine said six people were injured in the attack, including one child.

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