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Russia Withdrew from Snake Island

  Snake Island, in the Black Sea. Image credit: Ukraine Naval Forces.

On June 30th, the Russian army withdrew from Snake Island, a small rock located off the northwest coast of the Black Sea just 35 km from Ukraine. The island, located in a particularly strategic position, was occupied by the Russian army at the very beginning of the war in Ukraine, on February 24th.


As Al Jazeera reports, the Russian defence ministry stated that “as a gesture of goodwill, the Russian armed forces completed their tasks on Snake Island and withdrew a garrison stationed there,” the ministry said, in an announcement that came after Ukraine stepped up its attacks on the outpost.


This action was further explained by the minister as the Kremlin's will to show the world that Russia will cooperate with the humanitarian corridor organized by the UN. The corridor will help the grain, until now stuck in the Ukrainian ports, particularly in the Odesa one, to be finally exported.


The island's occupation by Russian troops rose many concerns of a geopolitical and security nature in the past months. Accordingly, Moscow could easily use the place to install its long-range air defence systems. This would give the country full control of the north-western section of the Black Sea and southern Ukraine by air, sea, and land.


Snake Island, known in Ukrainian as Zmiinyi, would give an edge to the Russian troops in the penetration of the Russian-backed breakaway region of Transnistria. The Russian presence was already creating problems for Romania.


The small rocky place is close to the section of the Danube River that delineates the border with Ukraine. The Rumanian port of Constanta, located in the vicinity, has already had connection problems with the port of Odesa for this reason.


The Ukrainian army welcomed the news with joy. Despite the withdrawal being described as a gesture of goodwill, military experts say that this could not be the case. The island is a place extremely difficult to protect as it is exposed on all sides to all types of attacks.


Indeed, several Ukrainian offensives on the island pointed exactly to this goal. Moreover, the sinking of the Russian ship Moskva compounded the situation for Moscow. Defending the place by installing anti-aircraft systems and radio-electronic warfare proved impossible due to the considerable distance from the main Russian naval bases in the Black Sea.


According to the analyst, Steven Rosenberg, the idea of a "gesture of goodwill" was created to convince the Russian audience that Russia is a magnanimous country and that the special operation is proceeding according to plan.


He explains that despite the withdrawal being an embarrassing defeat for Moscow, it will not nevertheless change the path undertaken. The point, for Russia, is to maintain under strict control the areas of eastern and southern Ukraine already acquired during these months.


Vadym Denysenko, an adviser for the Ukrainian interior minister, said that the withdrawal is a huge victory for Ukraine and that “now the Russians cannot do anything in this area of the sea, except, unfortunately, shell Ukrainian cities with missiles from their ships.”


In the meantime, US President Joe Biden, who is currently in Europe to attend the NATO summit in Madrid, reiterated his support for Ukraine "for as long as it takes". He made it clear to the international community that the Madrid summit aimed to enhance the alliance more to tackle present and future threats.




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