On June 30, Ukraine launched strikes on Snake Island in the Black Sea, after which the Russian Defense Ministry announced that the Russian military "as a step of goodwill" had completed the "implementation of the assigned tasks" and withdrew the garrison stationed there. As military-political expert Yuri Fedorov told The Insider, Russia's statement is "obvious lies and hypocrisy", since there was no act of "good will" there. He explained that the Russian Armed Forces left Zmeiny due to the supply of Western weapons to Ukraine, including American HIMARS multiple launch rocket systems.
“It has become impossible to defend this island. This is a bare and flat surface, very small in size, and for quite a long time, until Ukraine had new HIMARS, it tried to strike at this island with the help of drones and aircraft. This is a good thing, but drones and aircraft are vulnerable, there are not so many of them in Ukraine. The island had a fairly powerful anti-aircraft defense, however, of a tactical level with a range of up to 20 km and a strike height of up to 10 km. Ukrainian planes approaching the island fell into the risk zone. I don’t know if they were shot down there or not, the Russian side, of course, says that there were heavy losses of Ukrainian aviation, but it is impossible to trust the Russian side in this sense, as in many others. There must have been some losses.
When these rocket launchers appeared, capable of firing in volleys a large number of rockets, the warhead of which weighs 90 kg, and this is a powerful explosion that can destroy even a fortified position, after that it became clear that it was impossible to defend this island, that everything that is located there , will be swept away. There were mostly anti-aircraft installations, and we had to leave from there.”
According to the expert, there was a naval blockade near the island, and Ukraine could hit ships approaching the island. He recalled that a few weeks ago, the rescue tugboat of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation Spasatel Vasily Bekh (SB-739), which was transporting Russian sailors, weapons and ammunition, including the Tor anti-aircraft missile system at the then occupied Serpentine. Fedorov suggested that Ukraine struck with American Harpoons. “Naturally, they could not seriously supply this island, because after the appearance of these anti-ship missiles, it became risky to approach the island,” the expert said.
Fedorov also explained the significance of the island, over which Russia lost control:
“He was important for two purposes. Firstly, to deploy anti-ship systems that are located in the Crimea - one is called "Ball", and the other "Bastion". True, there are not so many of them in Russia, but nonetheless. These complexes, equipped with anti-ship missiles, could control a significant sea space, but not only, because they can also be fired at ground targets. There, the radius is probably 250–300 km. This directly affected the interests of Romania, because this island is located 35 km from Romania. You can control the sea routes up to Odessa and Ochakov.
And secondly, it was planned to place C-300 anti-aircraft systems there and control the airspace both over the sea and over a large part of the ground airspace of Ukraine, through which air routes from Crimea to Transnistria could pass, in order to ensure the security of a potential air bridge from Crimea to Transnistria. Such an S-300 complex on Serpentine would be very useful. All this happened after the cruiser Moskva, where such complexes were located, sank. The only option that the Russians had was to deploy everything on this island, but the idea is bad, because it is a flat and rocky surface, very vulnerable, it is impossible to hide there, it is probably possible to build underground structures there, but it takes time and different kind of effort.
The expert concluded that Snake Island, from which the Russian war began, is a symbol for Ukraine: “There was a garrison of 30 people, and he was taken prisoner, as you know. This island has always been disputed between Ukraine and Romania, and Ukraine kept border guards there, symbolizing that this island belongs to Ukraine.”
Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valery Zaluzhny confirmed the liberation of the island from Russian troops. According to him, the Ukrainian Bogdan self-propelled howitzer played an important role in the liberation. Zaluzny also showed a video of strikes on Zmeiny:
In the days leading up to the "goodwill move," Russia recognized the importance of maintaining control over Zmeiny as a strategically important site. Thus, State Duma deputy and former commander of the 58th Army, ex-deputy commander of the troops of the Southern Military District Andrey Gurulev published a text entitled "On the heroism of our soldiers in the defense of Snake Island." “We need control over this island, this is a strategically important object, so let's thank our heroes from the bottom of our hearts,” he concluded in the article.
In addition, on June 22, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Defense Committee Yuri Shvytkin, in a conversation with Lenta.ru, listed the points on which the island is important. According to him, Serpentine is the main strategic object in the Black Sea, since not a single ship from Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and any other country will pass by the island. This sea route is under the control of those forces that are located on the island. Director of the Center for Military-Political Problems Alexei Podberezkin, in a commentary to RIA Novosti, also recognized the strategic importance of the island for control over the Black Sea coast of Ukraine and a possible Russian offensive in the Odessa region. Russian political scientist, leader of the International Eurasian Movement Alexander Dugin also wrote about the capture of the island on the first day of the war: “Ours have taken Snake Island. Serpent's Island in the Black Sea plays a key role in sacred geography, according to Vasile Lovinescu (Geticus). There was an ancient sanctuary of Apollo. Who controls the Snake, controls the course of world history.
A day after the start of the war, a video appeared on the network from Snake Island, which was captured by the Russian military. Threatened with shelling, the Russian side demanded that the border guards who protect it surrender: “I am a Russian ship, I propose to lay down their arms,” a voice is heard from the loudspeaker. "Russian warship, go f*ck!" - answer him. After that, Ukraine officially recognized that the servicemen from Zmeiny Island were alive and in captivity.