Snake Island (Zmiinyi Island), was attacked and captured by the Russian Navy, along with its entire garrison, on February 24th. In recent days, the Ukrainian Navy attempted to counter attack Russian Forces deployed on the island, but failed to land on the island and suffered significant material losses. At the same time, the Russian military was forced to leave the island. The control over Snake Island is of strategic importance, since it is a necessary bridgehead for the assault on the southern Ukrainian region of Odessa.
The military developments on Snake Island are hard to be clearly covered, as the reports of the Defence Ministries of the both sides do not reflect the full picture, while any military reporters are absent in the area.
So far, judging by various footage from the spot, some military reports and claims by the MoD, a fierce battle for the island broke out in the Black Sea.
In the preparation for the landing of the Ukrainian troops, Ukrainian Bayraktar TB2 UAVs have been operating almost daily over the positions of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation on the island. Ukrainian Mi—8 helicopters have been transferred to the Chervonoglinsky airfield in Odessa. US M777 howitzers with 155 mm guided M982 Excalibur active-rocket projectiles have been transferred to the Zatoka area, posing the threat to the Russian positions on the island as well as ships nearby. Target designation and reconnaissance are provided by US reconnaissance aircraft deployed over the the Black Sea area. The Air Forces of Ukraine also reportedly use airfields in Romania and Bulgaria to base their aircraft.
Earlier, on May 2, two Russian Raptor-type boats were destroyed by strikes from Bayraktar UAVs in the Black Sea. The AFU military command confirmed the attack which took place at dawn near the Zmiinyi island.
Thus, on May 6, the Russian short-range surface-to-air missile system “Tor” deployed on Snake Island was damaged as a result of the Ukrainian attack with Turkish-made Bayraktar TB-2 UAVs. At least two Bayraktar TB2 attack UAVs of the AFU were deployed in the area during the attack, one of which carried out the strike and the second adjusted the fire.
On May 6, the Russian MoD claimed the interception of a Ukrainian Bayraktar UAV over the island. On May 5, another Bayraktar UAV was shot down as well as a Ukrainian Su-24 attack aircraft.
As a result of the attack, the Russian military reportedly withdrew from Snake Island on May 7.
On the same day, the Ukrainian Air Force attempted to raid on the island. Ukrainian Mi-8 cargo helicopters and the Stanislav landing boat covered by UAVs and fighters reportedly reached the shores of the island. According to the reports, at least two Su-24 and two Su-27 aircraft, as well as two more smaller warships were involved in the operation. At the moment of landing, Ukrainian forces were struck by Russian warships and aircraft.
According to the Russian MoD, a Ukrainian Su-24 bomber, a Su-27 fighter, three Mi-8 helicopters with landing troops and two Bayraktar-TB2 unmanned aerial vehicles were shot down over Snake Island. The Ukrainian amphibious assault boat Stanislav was also destroyed.
The other Ukrainian forces retreated. The satellite imagery made on May 7 shows two ships of the Ukrainian Navy heading away from the island towards mainland Ukraine.
Ukrainian media shared the footage made by the Bayraktar UAVs in another attempt to claim new victories by the AFU. The video shows the strikes of the Ukrainian warplanes on the military strongholds on the island. Ukrainian aircraft are flying at low altitude facing no resistance, which likely confirms the statements about the withdrawal of Russian troops.
A Russian helicopter carrying members of the Special Forces involved in evacuation from the island was destroyed likely by the Ukrainian UAV.
On the same day, on May 7, the Russian Aerospace Forces attacked the airfields of Chervonoglinny, Shkolny and Martynovka, targeting the aircraft involved in the attack on the island.
Among the military targets on the territory of the Shkolny airfield and Odessa International Airport which were hit with air-launched cruise missiles on May 7, there were:
- two of the four air defense battery launchers. One of them was located on the runway of the Odessa airport.
- a settling tank with aircraft and hangars for temporary storage of aircraft equipment at the Odessa Aircraft Repair Plant.
- a warehouse.
- the flight control center of the Odessa airport has been disabled.
The island is currently the gray zone in the Black Sea. The Russian military left the island and repells the attempts of the Ukrainian Navy to take control over it. Clashes in the area continue.
On May 8, the Russian MoD reported that “during the night, two more Ukrainian Su-24 bombers and one Mi-24 helicopter of the Ukrainian Air Force were destroyed over the island of Zmeiny by Russian air defense means, and an unmanned aerial vehicle “Bayraktar-TB2″ was shot down near the city of Odessa.
In total, four Ukrainian aircraft, four helicopters, including three with troops on board, three Bayraktar-TB2 unmanned aerial vehicles and one amphibious assault boat of the Ukrainian Navy were destroyed in this area during the day.”
Also, a Ukrainian Navy corvette of Project 1241 was destroyed near Odessa, according to the briefing of the Russian MoD.
On May 8, the Russian Aerospace Forces once again attacked the Martynovka airfield in the Voznesensky district, where the aircraft involved in the strikes on Snake island was based.
Effective interaction of the US intelligence and the Ukrainian armed forces, as well as the lack of an effective Russian air defense system in the area of the island, forced the Russian forces to leave the island. At the same time, the powerful grouping of the Black Sea Fleet and the VKS units based in the Crimea do not allow the AFU to establish control over the waters near Odessa.
Control over Snake Island is of strategic importance. Located near the southern coast of Odessa, it is a necessary springboard for the expected Russian attack on the southern Ukrainian region. On the other hand, if the Ukrainian military gains control of the island, it can ensure the safety of the air and sea near Odessa. The island can also be used for the supply of military equipment from abroad by sea.
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