Russia abandons Snake Island in strategic victory for Kiev, hopes for resumption of Ukrainian grain exports

Russian forces have abandoned the strategic outpost of Snake Island in the Black Sea, in a major victory for Ukraine that could lift a Russian grain export blockade that threatens to exacerbate global hunger.

Russia’s defense ministry said it had decided to pull out of the rock as a “goodwill gesture” demonstrating Moscow’s efforts to open a humanitarian corridor through which grains could be shipped from Ukrainian ports shipped, not clogged.

Ukraine said it had dislodged Russian troops after a massive artillery and night attack.

“KABOOM!” tweeted Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Ukraine’s southern military command posted an image to Facebook of what appeared to be the island, seen from the air, with at least five massive columns of black smoke rising above it.

“The enemy hastily evacuated the remains of the garrison with two speedboats and probably left the island,” it said.

Close-up satellite image of Snake Island showing burning buildings.
A satellite image shows a burning pier and buildings on the north side of Snake Island.Reuters: Maxar Technologies

Oleksii Hromov, Brigadier General of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, told a briefing that Ukrainian troops are not occupying the island yet, “but they will, believe me”.

The bare rock controls sea routes to Odessa, Ukraine’s main Black Sea port, where the Russian blockade has prevented grain exports from one of the world’s major suppliers, causing a global deficit, price inflation and a risk of famine. Have originated.

Russia captured the island on the first day of the war, when a Ukrainian guard there, ordered to surrender by the Russian cruiser Moskva, radioed back: “Russian warship: go destroy yourself”.

Hope of resumption of Ukrainian grain exports to the rest of the world

“Most importantly, this could open the door for Ukrainian grain exports from Odessa, which is critical to the Ukrainian economy and global food supply,” tweeted Rob Lee, a senior fellow at US-based Foreign Policy. Research Institute.

Lifting the blockade has been a primary strategic goal of the West. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has accused Russia of deliberately causing world hunger as “blackmail”.

Moscow denies blocking ports and blames food shortages on Western sanctions, saying it is restricting its own exports.

“The Ukrainian army has cleared the entrances to their ports; no one is stopping them from clearing those mines and we guarantee the safety of grain shipping there.”

A driver unloads a truck at a grain warehouse while harvesting barley.
Russia’s withdrawal from Snake Island does not mean immediate access to Ukrainian grain.Reuters: Valentyn Ogirenko

‘Big win’ despite no immediate relief of export blockade

Several military experts said driving the Russians off Snake Island alone is not enough to unblock the ports.

“Does that mean the grain is suddenly flowing? No, really not,” said Marcus Faulkner, a war studies lecturer at King’s College London, pointing out that ports were still being mined and Russia was still able to intercept cargo ships at sea.

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Oleg Zhdanov, a Kiev-based military analyst, also said the ports could not be opened immediately, but it was still a “great victory in the sense that we liquidate the Black Sea fleet’s dominance”.

Last month, the British Ministry of Defense said that if Russia could consolidate its hold on Snake Island with air defense and coastal defense cruise missiles, it could dominate the northwestern Black Sea.

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