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Ukraine fetes Russian pullback from strategic Snake Island outpost

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KYIV: Russia on Thursday withdrew from Snake Island, a craggy speck of land in the Black Sea, handing Ukraine a symbolically-potent political victory and depriving Moscow of a strategic outpost for its air defences and electronic warfare systems.

The island’s capture by Russian forces on the first day of their invasion entered Ukrainian folklore.

Just over four months later, Kyiv’s announcement that it had driven Russia from the outcrop with artillery and missile strikes lifted the spirit of Ukrainians worn down by Russia’s grinding eastern advance.

Russia cast the exit as a deliberate withdrawal, an act of goodwill to demonstrate it was not obstructing UN efforts to unblock grain that is stranded at Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, an assertion dismissed by Kyiv as untrue.

But military analysts in Kyiv said Russia’s presence on the island had become untenable because of Ukrainian attacks on Russian supply lines to the outcrop from Crimea, and that much of the equipment deployed there had already been destroyed.

“Ukrainian aviation and Bayraktar drones effectively cut off supplies to the Russian contingent that was deployed there,” Oleksandr Musiyenko, a Kyiv-based military analyst, said.

Ukrainian armed forces commander Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said Ukrainian-made Bohdana howitzers played an important role in driving out the Russian forces and thanked foreign partners for their support.

“Trying to retain positions on a small and barren piece of land in range of heavy artillery and without the means to suppress that artillery is a recipe to steadily accumulate casualties,” Jack Watling, a military expert at RUSI in London, said.

Russia had deployed air defences including Tor and Pantsir systems on the island as well as electronic warfare and radio intelligence units.

“We practically destroyed all the equipment on the island. The garrison’s presence had simply become pointless. What could rank and file soldiers with automatic weapons do on the island? Nothing. There isn’t even fresh water there,” Oleg Zhdanov, a Kyiv-based military analyst, said.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2022

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