30th June, 2022
Russian forces abandoned the strategic Black Sea outpost of Snake Island on Thursday in a victory for Ukraine that could loosen Russia’s blockade on Ukrainian ports.
Russia said it had decided to withdraw from the outcrop off Ukraine’s southwestern coast as a “gesture of goodwill” to show Moscow was not obstructing U.N. attempts to open a humanitarian corridor allowing grains to be shipped from Ukraine.
Ukraine said it had driven the Russian forces out after an artillery and missile assault overnight.
“KABOOM!” tweeted Andriy Yermak, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s chief of staff.
“No Russian troops on the Snake Island anymore. Our Armed Forces did a great job.”
Snake Island was retaken by Ukraine after weeks in which momentum in the four-month-old conflict appeared to be shifting in favour of Russia.
The Ukrainian military posted an image on Facebook of what appeared to be the island, seen from the air, with several columns of black smoke rising above it.
“The enemy hurriedly evacuated the remains of the garrison with two speed boats and probably left the island. Currently, Snake island is consumed by fire, explosions are bursting,” it said.
Ukrainian Brigadier General Oleksii Hromov said Ukrainian forces were not yet occupying the island but would do so.
The rocky outcrop overlooks sea lanes to Odesa, Ukraine’s main Black Sea port, where Russia is blocking food cargos from one of the world’s leading grain suppliers.
Snake Island captured world attention after Russia seized it on the war’s first day. A Ukrainian guard, ordered by Russia’s flagship cruiser Moskva to surrender, radioed back “Russian warship: go fuck yourself”.
In contrast, however, a Ukrainian official in the heavily fought eastern province of Luhansk described difficulties for Ukrainian forces in the city of Lysychansk on Thursday.
Russian artillery shelled from different directions while the Russian army was approaching from different sides, regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said on Ukrainian television.
“Residents have been told to remain in underground shelters indefinitely as it is very dangerous,” Gaidai said.
An official from the pro-Russian separatist administration in Luhansk province told RIA news agency the Lysychansk oil refinery was now fully controlled by Russian and pro-Russian forces.
He said all roads to Lysychansk were also under their control.
Ukraine says the main road out is largely impassable because of fighting, but the city is not yet fully cut off.