Russia aims to control Snake Island from afar with air and missile strikes without occupying it if Russian actions after their withdrawal and statements from Moscow are considered.
A day after a third attack by the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) on Snake Island forced a Russian evacuation “in a gesture of goodwill” to allow the export of food grains from northwestern Ukrainian ports, Kiev itself immediately complained about Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) strikes with white phosphorous incendiary bombs.
After publicizing their “artillery, rocket and aviation strikes” on June 30, which the occupying Russians were not able to “withstand,” UAF Commander-in-Chief Lieutenant-General Valeriy Zaluzhnyy released another video on June 1, showing VKS Sukhoi Su-30 fighters undertaking a bombing run.
Slamming Russia for going back on its words, he warned: “everyone (with) these facts (before entering into an) agreement with Russia.”
⚡️Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valerii Zaluzhnyi posted a video of how the Ukrainian army destroyed the remains of Russian equipment on Zmiinyi (Snake) Island. pic.twitter.com/cswDKGX3rq
— Flash (@Flash43191300) July 2, 2022
Military/Tactical Victory vs. Political Strategic Defeat
The spokesperson for the UAF’s Southern Command, Natalia Humenyuk, cautioned about it being “too early” to establish an outpost there and clarifying that their “forces (had not) landed there yet,” besides being unsure if Russian troops had withdrawn completely, indicated it was a mere symbolic victory.
She later said an “investigation” was necessary into possible “diversion tools” left behind by Russia before claiming back the island.
The spokesperson, however, did celebrate the UAF strikes too, saying the Russians “gathered their things and got out as soon as they could” after “truly understanding” the impact of UAF’s powerful “rocket artillery assault.”
That Russia wouldn’t entirely give up a key strategic outpost like Snake Island (or Zmeiny as Russia refers to it) that controls the northern Black Sea’s approaches to Odessa, reflected in Russia’s State Duma’s (Parliament) Alexei Chernyak’s statement that the island was now under the control of their “missiles, fleet and aerospace forces.”
#Ukraine: Yet more drama in the saga of Snake Island; this time it is the turn of Su-30SM jets of the Russian Naval Aviation force to hit the rock, presumably to destroy any equipment left behind.
However, unlike the Ukrainian Su-27 strike just weeks ago, 3 of 4 bombs missed. pic.twitter.com/eCA1oE8RIV
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) July 1, 2022
Neither is this the first time Humenyuk exercised caution about celebrating too early. After the second attempt on June 21 to take the island, she said the assessment “required silence” with the “enemy losses being verified,” and any further information compromising operational security given the Russians were “continuously listening.”
The Ukrainian claim of that attack was also vague on details, with information only on the weapons platforms used – Tochka-U ballistic missiles, Uragan Multiple Rocket Launch Systems (MLRS), and US-made M-777 155 mm howitzers from the Kubansky Island, west of Odessa.
In contrast, the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) had listed having destroyed 15 Ukrainian UAVs, including two TB-2 Bayraktar drones, four Tochka-U missiles and 21 Uragan Multiple Rocket Launch Systems (MLRS) in what it described as a “mad attack.”
“Not a single Ukrainian missile or bomb reached its target (with the) failed strike forcing the enemy to abandon the landing,” the Russian MoD added.
It also claimed to have detected a US Air Force’ Global Hawk’ RQ-4 at high altitudes and said the UAF drones were provided cover by S-300 surface-to-air missiles from the towns of Tuzla and Ochakov.
In the first Ukrainian attack on May 8, Russia claimed to have destroyed three Sukhoi Su-24 ground attack jets; one Su-27 fighter; a Mi-24 helicopter; three Mi-8 loaded with troops, and; three Centaur-class attack boats killing more than 50 Ukrainian troops.
Diversion to Make You Look Elsewhere
The World War 2 Russian tactic of ‘Maskirovka’ is still used now, evident in the second month of the war in Ukraine, where its maneuvers outside of Kiev led Ukraine and the world to believe that the capital was the target.
A 64 km long Russian military convoy hardly moved for several days, with the UAF having successfully stalled its advance.
However, Russia’s and Lugansk & Donetsk People’s Republics (LDPR) gains in the east and the south in Mariupol later revealed were because of the UAF having committed a majority of their forces there.
Today, Lisychansk and Sieverodonetsk have fallen.
In Mariupol, at the heavily fortified Azovstal steel plant, nearly 2,000 members of the neo-Nazi Azov Regiment were holed up in the labyrinth of underground tunnels that could have held a siege for months!
Such was the guarantee of the deep den for the defenders that Putin’s order to his Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu to surround the plant – because of having successfully captured the rest of the city – and simply starve out the defenders even looked smart.
This was also in line with the Russian tactic of bypassing heavy pockets of resistance in the north and the east to achieve larger strategic goals.
By late May, 2439 Ukrainian soldiers, most of them from the Azov Battalion, surrendered, succumbing to heavy bombing, a limited Spetsnaz incursion, and a barrage of terrifying-looking incendiary phosphorous bombs.
Experts mapping Russian advances later realized the ploy – to build a contiguous zone from the pro-Russia east, Crimea and the south. EurAsian Times had described this manner of slow, incremental advances without having to rush for a quick victory as a ‘Long War’.
British Chief of General Staff General Patrick Sanders’s description of the Russian way of war being at the “strategic and not the tactical level” in the June 28 Land Warfare Conference was instructive – if one is to consider an appreciation by the enemy.
“Its depth and resilience means it can suffer any number of campaigns, battles and engagements lost, regenerate and still ultimately prevail,” Sanders said.
‘First time is happenstance, the second time is a coincidence and the third time is enemy action,’ as goes the old military adage. In Kiev, Mariupol and Snake Island, it was enemy action all along.