The battle for control of Snake Island

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Snake Island, also known as Serpent Island or Zmiinyi Island, is an island belonging to Ukraine located in the Black Sea, near the Danube Delta, with an important role in delimiting Ukrainian territorial waters. The island has been known since classical antiquity, and during that era hosted a Greek temple to Achilles. Wikipedia

Area: 17 ha

Max length: 662 m

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Military briefing: why Russia and Ukraine are fighting over Snake Island

Black Sea outcrop is as much a tool of propaganda as of military strategy for Moscow and Kyiv

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Snake Island leapt to international attention early in Russia’s war against Ukraine when its tiny garrison was told to surrender or face naval bombardment and certain death. “Russian warship, go fuck yourself,” came the now celebrated response from one of its guardsmen, Roman Hrybov. Three months on, the 0.2 square kilometre island — barely more than an outcrop of rock — remains at the centre of a bitter fight as Ukraine and Russia vie for control of the Black Sea and the conflict’s broader propaganda battle. Moscow has been unable to reinforce its position there to secure control against Ukrainian drone and air strikes. But nor can Ukraine, which has limited naval capacity, muster sufficient power to regain and hold the island.
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Snake Island “is strategically useful”, said a western official. “But it also has a symbolism that is possibly even more important.”


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For Ukraine, preventing Moscow from using the island as a missile and naval base would help break Russia’s Black Sea economic blockade of maritime exports, including grain, of which Ukraine is a top global supplier. Russia could also use the island as a base to attack Odesa and expand the conflict into Moldova and its Moscow-allied breakaway state of Transnistria. It could even potentially hinder the deployment of Nato weapons and troops from Romania.

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“The one who controls the island can at any time block the movement of commercial vessels in all directions to the south of Ukraine,” Kyrylo Budanov, chief of Ukraine’s military intelligence, said on Friday. So far, Ukraine has frustrated Russian attempts to turn Snake Island into a secure base, hitting Russian air defence systems and resupply vessels with air strikes and the Turkish Bayraktar drones that have led to some of Ukraine’s most spectacular military successes.
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Militarily, analysts say Snake Island’s size and lack of cover make it all but indefensible. Unless Moscow manages to install air defence systems, or place a battleship with similar systems nearby, “Russian positions on the island are unsustainable”, Rochan Consulting, a military analysis group, wrote in a May 15 briefing. “Neither option looks currently viable.” Ukraine’s immediate aim is not to physically control Snake Island, as its own troops would be as vulnerable as those of Russia. Rather, it wants to stop Moscow from fortifying its position and installing long-range air defence systems that could protect the area and allow for naval operations. Andriy Zagorodnyuk, a former Ukrainian defence minister who advises the government on security, said Russia’s de facto control of Snake Island “becomes less critical if we destroy everything that arrives”.

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Snake Island (Wikipedia)

On 24 February 2022, the first day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Snake Island, a Ukrainian island in the Black Sea also known as Zmiinyi Island, was attacked and captured by the Russian Navy, along with its entire garrison. The attack was widely publicized when an audio clip of Russian cruiser Moskva hailing the island’s garrison over the radio demanding their surrender and being told “Russian warship, go fuck yourself” (Russian: ‘Русский военный корабль, иди на хуй‘, tr.Russky voyenny korabl, idi na khuy) in response went viral, along with initial inaccurate reports of the garrison’s deaths.[2][3] Later on, it emerged that a civilian search and rescue ship trying to evacuate the soldiers was also captured along with the garrison. The ship, its crew, and at least one soldier were subsequently freed in prisoner exchanges.

From 26 to 30 April OC South claimed strikes on the Russian forces on the island left a control post hit and two anti-aircraft missile complex Strela-10 destroyed as well as 42 Russian soldiers killed.[34][35][36][37]

On 1 May, Ukrainian Air Force Command South claims to have launched an attack on Snake Island that destroyed Russian equipment stationed there. [38]

On 2 May at dawn near the Snake Island in the Black Sea two Russian Raptor patrol and landing boats were sunk by a Baykar Bayraktar TB2 drone. A video footage was released showing Russian Raptor multi-purpose boats being struck by guided bombs followed by explosions and fires on them.[39][40]

On 7 May, Ukraine officials reported and displayed footage of a Russian Serna-class landing craft located in the Black Sea being destroyed near Snake Island by a Ukrainian drone.[41][42] Ukrainian Baykar Bayraktar TB2 drones were used to destroy two Tor surface-to-air missile launchers, one of which was in the process of being unloaded from the Serna-class landing craft, possibly clearing the way for a pair of Ukrainian Su-27s conducting a high-speed, low level bombing run that day;[43][44] satellite photos seem to back up the footage.[45] Later, footage of a Ukrainian drone strike on a Russian helicopter on Snake Island was released,[45][unreliable source?] independently verified by Reuters.[46] Meanwhile, on the same day the Russian Ministry of Defense claimed Russian forces repelled Ukrainian attempts to retake Snake Island, destroying Ukrainian helicopters, planes and drones,[47][46] later adding that Ukraine “lost four aircraft, 10 helicopters, 29 drones, three armoured assault craft” in attempts to reclaim the island. These claims have not been confirmed.[48][49]

On 9 May Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said that Russian army holding the island is an advantage for Ukraine, as they can repeatedly assault Russian targets on the island.[46] The UK Ministry of Defense reported that according to their analysis, Russia was trying to reinforce an exposed garrison on the island, where upon Ukraine had successfully launched drone attacks against resupply vessels and air defenses.[49] The status of the island is critical to both Ukraine and Russia as a military asset.[50]

On 12 May, Ukraine claimed it had attacked Russian logistics ship Vsevolod Bobrov near Snake Island, causing it to catch on fire and be towed back to Sevastopol.[51] Ukrainian intelligence has released an intercepted radio broadcast, during the week of 9-15 May, from what it claims to be a Raptor landing craft near Snake Island: “Where is air support? Where is air support? This Bayraktar (Ukrainian drone) is already pissing me the fuck off … They have fired a fourth missile at us! A fourth missile!” [52]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attack_on_Snake_Island

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Having sunk the Moskva, Ukraine hits another Russian warship, the Makarov, with a missile: Can Putin break the Snake Island Jinx?

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