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Ukraine war: Snake Island and fight for control in Black Sea

Ukraine war: Snake Island and fight for control in Black Sea

Ukraine war: Snake Island and fight for control in Black Sea

Russia guaranteed Ukraine had sent off a bombed bid to recover the island however the UK says the fight isn’t finished
Right from the beginning of Russia’s intrusion of Ukraine, Snake Island was given an essential and practically legendary status in the conflict. This unexceptional, rough outcrop in the Black Sea was seized by Russia and has turned into a milestone of vital worth.

Russia claims Ukraine has supported deplorable misfortunes in a bombed bid to recover the island, including extraordinary powers, warplanes, helicopters and robots. Ukraine demands it has restricted its mission to going after offices on the island and boats.

The fight isn’t finished and Russia is over and again attempting to build up its uncovered post, says UK guard service insight.

Snake or Zmiinyi Island is a negligible part of a square kilometer in size and there are no more snakes whatsoever. Yet, there can be no question of its significance for control of the western Black Sea.

“Assuming Russian soldiers prevail with regards to possessing Snake Island and set up their long-range air-guard frameworks, they will control the ocean, land and air in the north-west piece of the Black Sea and in the south of Ukraine,”

Ukrainian military master Oleh Zhdanov told the BBC.

A view shows a helicopter hovering over Zmiinyi (Snake) Island, Ukraine, in this screengrab taken from a drone video obtained by Reuters on May 8, 2022.IMAGE SOURCE,UKRAINIAN GROUND FORCES
Image caption,

This helicopter was blown up seconds after this screengrab was taken on Snake Island – Russia and Ukraine have both claimed the attack

That is why Russia’s flagship Moskva sailed there within hours of the start of the war, telling Ukrainian soldiers on the island to give themselves up:

“I suggest you lay down your weapons and surrender to avoid bloodshed and needless casualties. Otherwise, you will be bombed,”

said a Russian officer.

“Russian warship get lost,”

came the now legendary response, although in far cruder language. The island was seized but weeks later the Moskva was sunk.

Losing the Moskva means Russia’s supply ships to the island now have minimal protection, says the UK, although, if it can consolidate its position, then it could dominate a large part of the Black Sea.

Threat to Ukraine, its neighbours and Nato

A reinforced Russian presence could be disastrous for Ukraine, strategically as well as economically.

Ukraine has already had to close its port at Odesa, suspending vital grain exports, but Mr Zhdanov fears the island could also be used as a second frontline.

“If the Russians succeed in installing long-range air defence systems then they will be able to defend their squadron, which can reach Ukraine’s coastline.”

It would also give Russian troops the chance to break into Transnistria, Moldova’s breakaway territory under Russian control that lies next-door to Ukraine and not far from Odesa.

Map of Black Sea

However, Snake Island is a mere 45km (28 miles) away from the coast of Romania, which is part of the West’s Nato alliance.

UK naval analyst Jonathan Bentham believes a Russian S-400 air missile system on the island would be a “big game-changer”. If Russia were able to deploy a missile system, not only would Odesa come under threat, but Nato’s southern flank would be endangered, too, warns Romanian historian Dorin Dobrincu.

“This is very important for the Romanian government and people but also for the entire alliance. Russia would have the capacity to destroy cities and military capability in the east of our territory.”

Nato reinforced Romania’s borders from the start of the war, sending in Belgian and French forces.

But there are major economic risks, too, for Romania. Snake Island lies close to the mouth of the River Danube, which delineates Romania’s border with Ukraine. Romania’s Black Sea port of Constanta is not far south and has been taking in container ships that are no longer able to sail to Odesa.

Russian military-political analyst Alexander Mikhailov said troops on Snake Island could be in a position to control traffic into the north-western Black Sea and the Danube delta – the gateway to south-eastern Europe.

“If there’s a military base or military infrastructure, it would be possible to block ships that enter the river as well as leave,”

he told Russian media.

Romania’s Euro-Atlantic Resilience Centre believes Russia may decide to annex the island and control as many Black Sea shipping routes as possible towards the Bosphorus in Turkey.

Historically, Snake Island was Romanian territory until it was ceded in 1948 to the Soviet Union, which used it as a radar base. As Romania came under Soviet influence until 1989, Bucharest accepted the arrangement.

Ukraine took control with the fall of communism and eventually in 2009 the International Court of Justice drew up the island’s territorial limits, giving Romania almost 80% of the Black Sea continental shelf near the island, and Ukraine the rest.

Snake Island is not just of strategic use, because this part of the Black Sea is rich in hydrocarbon resources – so The Hague ruling means both countries possess reserves of petroleum and gas.

It may seem to be a small clump of rock with little obvious value, but its fate is a major element of Russia’s war.

Image caption,

The bravery of Ukraine’s soldiers captured on Snake Island in late February was marked by a postage stamp

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