By Rene Tebel*
Russian forces are unable to hold Zmiyinyy, or Snake Island, which was taken on the first day of the invasion. With the island, which is about 42 acres (17 hectares) in size and unwooded, Moscow loses a strategically important position about 35 kilometers off the Ukrainian coast from which it could monitor southern Ukraine’s airspace and the northern Black Sea, as well as block Ukrainian shipping.
Ukrainian attacks and landing attempts began to increase in late April as Russia strengthened its military presence on Zmiyinyy Island. On May 1, for example, the New Voice of Ukraine reported a heavy attack against the island that destroyed three anti-aircraft systems and a Strela-10 surface-to-air missile system and killed 42 Russians.
Shortly thereafter, Ukrainian sources reported the deployment of a Pantsir-S1 air defense missile system on the island. Further supplies, however, were hampered on June 17 by the sinking of the Russian tugboat Vasily Bekh, which was transporting ammunition, weapons, and an air defense system to Snake Island.
Another Ukrainian attack on the island was pointed out by The War Zone based on the analysis of satellite imagery, which could be narrowed down to June 20 and 21. An unnamed Ukrainian intelligence source told The War Zone at the time “that multiple types of 155mm howitzers, 122mm BM-21 and 220mm BM-27 rocket artillery systems, Su-24 Fencer swing-wing combat jets, and Su-27 Flanker fighters had all taken part in recent operations targeting Snake Island.”
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov was able to present a final success story on June 26 with the downing of a Ukrainian Su-25 aircraft. On Thursday RIA Novosti on telegram was quoting the Russian Defence Ministry, that “as a step of goodwill, the Russian military completed tasks on Snake Island and withdrew the garrison there.”
The Odessa City Council, citing the South Operational Command, announced also on Telegram that Russian forces had “hastily evacuated the remains of their garrison using two high-speed boats and, presumably, left the island,” Ukrinform stated. Photographs show plumes of smoke over the island.
*The author is the Editor of the Tebel Report in Austria. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Al Bawaba News, where this article was published.