Ukraine mounts Snake Island counterattack against Russia

Ukraine forces have launched an assault  that dealt a “significant” blow to Russian troops on Snake Island  —  one of the first Ukrainian positions to fall in the opening hours of the invasion, according to a new report.

Ukraine’s southern operational command said late Tuesday that it had counterattacked Russians  on the Black Sea island, also known as Zmiinyi Island, using “various forces” that  “inflicted significant losses” on Kremlin troops positioned there, the Ukrainian outlet Ukrinform reported.

Ukraine’s military said it had destroyed Russian air defenses and radar systems on the island. It was unclear Wednesday if Ukrainian troops had established a foothold on the island or if the counterattack involved only long-range fire.

Russian authorities dismissed the claims, with the Russian Defense Ministry saying its  air defenses on the island repelled Ukrainian forces.

Ukrainian troops destroyed Russian air defenses and radar systems on Snake Island on June 22.
via REUTERS

Snake Island —  a strategic outpost on just 40 acres of rock sticking out of the Black Sea —  gained notoriety in the opening hours of the war. As the Russian invasion began in earnest, two Russian ships closed in on the island and ordered its Ukrainian defenders to surrender.

In what quickly became a battle cry for Ukrainian troops, the border guards stationed there radioed back to the invader’s warships telling them to “go f–k [themselves].”

Russian forces subsequently bombarded and invaded the island, taking many Ukrainian defenders prisoner.

Early reports indicated that the soldiers defending Snake Island had died, and the episode became an early symbol of dogged Ukrainian resistance in the face of long odds.

Snake Island was one of the first Ukrainian positions to fall at the beginning of the Russian invasion.
Snake Island was one of the first Ukrainian positions to fall at the beginning of the Russian invasion.
via REUTERS

The Ukrainian border troops’ vulgar  instruction to the Russians was echoed fewer than two weeks later on video by the soldiers who sunk a Russian ship.

The defenders of Snake Island — some of whom remain in captivity — have become folk heroes of the four-month war.

“Russian warship, go f–k yourself” has since been emblazoned on t-shirts and on a Ukrainian postage stamp.

But Snake Island’s importance is greater than Ukrainian morale.

An aerial view shows Ukrainian UAV Bayraktar hitting Russian landing craft vessel with missiles, at Snake Island.
An aerial view shows Ukrainian UAV Bayraktar hitting Russian landing craft vessel with missiles, at Snake Island.
via REUTERS

The tiny island guards the shipping lanes into and out of the historic Ukraine city of Odessa, the only major commercial port  still under Kyiv’s control.

Ukrainian forces have long feared a Russian landing in Odessa, leaving the port mined and well-defended by them.

Ukrinform reported that a small Russian naval detachment consisting of four large landing ships and one submarine had recently been in the region.

Tuesday’s assault on Snake Island was part of a larger Ukrainian push to take back territory on the war’s southern front, where Kyiv’s southern command reported launching more than 100 artillery missions in the past 24 hours.

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