Russian forces abandoned the strategic Black Sea outpost of Snake Island on Thursday 30th June 2022, in a major victory for Ukraine.
The Russian defense ministry said it had decided to withdraw its forces from the outcrop as a “gesture of goodwill” to show Moscow was not obstructing UN efforts to open a humanitarian corridor allowing grains to be shipped from Ukraine.
Smoke and Fire
Ukraine said it had driven the Russian forces out after a massive artillery and missile assault overnight.
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 bare and rocky outcrop overlooks sea lanes to Odesa, Ukraine’s main Black Sea port, where Russia was blocking food cargos from one of the world’s leading grain suppliers, which has created a global shortage, price inflation, and risk of famine.
Snake Island captured world attention after Russia seized it on the war’s first day.
However, Moscow denies blocking the ports and blames food shortages on Western sanctions it says limit its own exports.
Russia had defended the island since February, despite Ukraine increasingly claiming to inflict severe damage, sinking supply vessels and destroying Russian fortifications.
The Ukrainian victory on Snake Island comes after weeks in which momentum in the conflict appeared to be shifting in favor of Russia, which has focused its firepower on capturing cities and towns in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
The island falls within the range of HIMARS missiles fired from the Ukrainian mainland. The country’s forces began fielding the powerful new rocket system sent by the United States last week.
Ukraine’s armed forces chief said Ukrainian-made howitzers firing on the island had played a role in driving the Russians off it, but also thanked foreign countries for their support.
Despite yielding ground and taking punishing losses in the Donbas in recent weeks, Ukraine hopes to inflict enough damage to exhaust Russia’s advanced army.
Russian forces have been trying to encircle Lysychansk since they captured Seivierodonetsk, on the opposite side of the Siverskyi Donets River, after weeks of heavy fighting.
“Fighting is going on all the time, the Russians are all the time on the offensive. There is no let-up,” regional Governor Serhiy Gaidai Told Ukrainian television.
An official from the pro-Russian separatist administration in the province told the RIA news agency the Lysychansk oil refinery was now fully controlled by Russian and pro-Russian forces, and all roads to the Lysychansk were also under their control.
Ukraine says the main road out is largely impassable because of fighting, but the city is not yet cut off.
In another boost for Ukraine’s struggle to beat back the Russian invasion, the United States said it would provide another $800 million in weapons and military aid to Kyiv.
U.S. President Joe Biden, speaking after a NATO summit in Madrid, said Washington and its allies were united in standing up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
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