Russia's retreat from Snake Island to reduce pressure off Ukrainian coast, but sea blockade remains — ISW
1 July, 2022

The retreat of Russian troops from the Snake Island will reduce pressure on the Ukrainian coast, as Russian air defense and missile systems have disappeared from the island. However, this will not end the sea blockade, said the American Institute for the Study of War in its latest update.

"The Russian defeat on the Snake Island will alleviate some pressure off the Ukrainian coast by removing Russian air defense and anti-ship missile systems from the island," ISW said.

However, according to analysts, the retreat in itself will not put an end to the naval blockade, since Russian forces still have access to land-based anti-ship systems in Crimea and the western part of the Kherson Oblast. Russians can still use those to target Ukrainian cargo. They can also attack with missiles from ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

Experts also noted that Russian "military bloggers" overwhelmingly approved of Moscow's decision to withdraw troops and equipment from the island, claiming that Russian forces supposedly prioritize the "liberation of Donbas."

Some of the bloggers said that the Russian forces lack the capacity to destroy the Ukrainian coastal forces. Meanwhile, others argued that Russian forces would be more successful striking the Ukrainians when they tried to deploy their own troops on the island.

Earlier, the Ukrainian Armed Forces announced that they plan to go to the island to establish direct physical control there. But they explained that at the moment it is necessary to conduct an investigation into the results of the operation, because the Russians could have left "means of sabotage".

"Our forces haven't landed on the island yet, so we can't say they've all left. It is too early for us to form an outpost on Snake Island. The investigation of the results of the military operation must be completed," said Nataliya Humenyuk, spokeswoman for the Operational Command South.

De-occupation of Snake Island

The Ukrainian military conducted the next stage of the military operation and struck Snake Island, forcing the occupiers to flee it completely. The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation confirmed its retreat, although there it is called a "step of goodwill." The Russian Federation said that its troops "completed the task on Snake Island and withdrew the garrison stationed there."

The OC "South" stated that the Russians, retreating from Snake Island, destroyed their military equipment, documentation and property. In this, they were also "helped" by missile and artillery strikes of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Besides, during the retreat, the enemy could have mined the territory and waters.

Earlier, the head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense, Kyrylo Budanov, explained that Snake Island is strategically important from the point of view of the possibility of a tactical sea landing by Russia. Theoretically, this is the only region through which Russian troops can attempt to land an amphibious assault on the territory of Transnistria. And also, as Budanov noted, whoever controls the island can at any moment block the movement of civilian vessels in all directions in the south of Ukraine.

What else did ISW analysts note?

  • Russian troops made limited gains within the Lysychansk Oil Refinery and around Lysychansk.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations to the south and east of Bakhmut and to the north of Slovyansk.
  • Russian forces continued efforts to regain control of settlements north of Kharkiv City.
  • Ukrainian counteroffensives continue to force Russian troops on the Southern Axis to prioritize defensive operations.
  • Russian occupation authorities took measures to ensure further economic and financial integration of occupied areas into the Russian system.