Snake island or Zmiinyi island is a rocky island of less than 1 square km off the southern coast of Ukraine, located 45 km from the coast of Romania and at the southern boundary of Ukrainian territorial waters in the black sea. What makes the snake island of great significance is its position, it has economic importance as well as it comes under the exclusive economic zone and the projects are significant reserves of hydrocarbons. It is open from all directions, sea, air, and land. Apart from economic importance, it is also strategically important to whoever controls to blockade of Odessa and dominates large parts of the black sea. On the first day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian navy attacked the snake island, which is a Ukrainian island in the black sea, and captured it along with its entire defence force, which instigated a military occupation of the snake island. Following the island’s capture, Ukraine launched a campaign against Russian forces on and around the island. It deployed anti-ship missiles against Russian naval forces and air, artillery, and missile strikes against Russian positions on the islands themselves. The capture of the island by Russians was seen as Russia blocking food exports from one of the world’s leading grain suppliers. Consequently, Russia withdrew from the island on June 30, 2022. The withdrawal of Russian forces from the island in the black sea is hailed as a victory move in Ukraine. Moscow said “it was not seeking to hinder the United Nations’ efforts to organize a corridor for the export of Ukrainian food products.” Though several military experts have said that driving the Russian from the island alone is not enough to unblock the ports.
Significance of the Snake Island
The island holds strategic importance because of many reasons.
Firstly the battle for the black sea. A rocky outcrop about 35km off the southwestern tip of Ukraine, snake island sits near the Danube Delta and close to the sea border with Romania, a NATO member.
The strategic value for the control of the north-western black sea. The coastal cities and shipping routes form part of the World’s grain food supply. Making it an important port.
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Russian withdrawal may help in easing its blockade on Ukrainian exports which feeds some of the world’s poorest countries in the world.
Another reason for its great significance is its history which goes back to the ancient Greek mythological Trojan War which was fought by the great Greek warrior Achilles. He was considered non-beatable as nobody could kill him, he had just one vulnerable spot on his heel, and aiming and hitting Achilles on his heel was the only way to kill him. He was eventually killed in the trojan war at the end by Paris, who shot him with an arrow aimed at his heel.
Being so small and covering just 0.17 sq. km, it is the size of 20 football pitches, snake island received so much publicity during the first few hours of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. When Ukrainian border guards rejected a Russian warship’s demand of surrender. Ukrainian soldier was recorded as saying “Russian warship, go f*** yourself,” one Ukrainian soldier was recorded saying.
This refusal to surrender was immortalized on a Ukrainian postage stamp as the day the stamp was issued, Ukraine sank the same Russian vessel, the Moskva, which had demanded the island surrender and had been the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.
In May, the UK’s defence minister had said “ if Russia were able to consolidate its grip on Snake Island with air defence and coastal defence cruise missiles, it could dominate the north-western Black Sea.”
Russia had defended the island since February, but Ukraine’s increasingly claimed to inflict severe damages, sinking supply vessels and destroying Russian fortifications on the island.
The new weapons which were sent by the west made the Russian defence force on the island more vulnerable, especially the high mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS) supplied by the US that Ukraine began fielding last week.
Russian troops have abandoned their positions on a captured Ukrainian island which is seen as a major setback to their invasion.
The news from the black sea came right after NATO leaders wrapped up their summit in Madrid. Where they demonstrated their unity and determination to back up Kyiv with more advanced weapons and showed their support for Ukraine.
The Russian defence minister’s statement described the retreat as “a gesture of goodwill meant to demonstrate that Moscow will not interfere with U.N. efforts to organize protected grain exports from Ukraine.”
To which Ukraine’s Foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba replied “ “They always downplay their defeats this way.” This has been seen as a major win for Ukraine.