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Russia Withdraws from Ukraine’s Strategic Snake Island

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Zmiinyi (Snake) Island is located south of Ukraine's mainland in the Black Sea | Image by Ukrainian Naval Forces

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Russian troops have left Ukraine’s Snake Island, a strategic territory in the Black Sea, the Office of the President of Ukraine and the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation said on Thursday.

Known in Ukrainian as Zmiinyi Ostriv, Snake Island lies approximately 30 miles off the Ukrainian coast near sea lanes leading to the Bosphorus and Mediterranean.

The small but important island was the location of one of the opening battles of the Ukraine War, with a Russian warship demanding the surrender of Ukrainian troops, who daringly responded with “Russian warship, go f**k yourself.”

Russian army spokesman Igor Konashenkov confirmed that Russian troops had withdrawn from Snake Island, calling it a “goodwill gesture” and saying the troops had carried out what Russia said was a “successful” operation.

Andriy Yermak, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, said, “KABOOM! No Russian troops on the Snake Island anymore. Our Armed Forces did a great job.”

Reuters could not verify either the Ukrainian or the Russian accounts.

Volodymyr Fesenko, a political analyst at the Penta Center think tank in Kyiv, said while Ukraine’s progress is average, it serves a critical objective.

“[Ukrainian gains], at least partially, divert Russia’s attention and resources from the Donbas,” he said, referencing the eastern Ukrainian region that has recently seen the most fierce combat. “They also allow Kyiv to create footholds for a future counteroffensive there.”

The island sits off the crucial port of Odesa, one of many shipping routes the U.S. and others have accused the Kremlin of blocking grain exports and exacerbating the growing worldwide food crisis.

The Russian ministry claimed the action proved that Russia was not trying to halt UN measures to establish a humanitarian passageway to export food out of Ukraine.

On Wednesday, the Kremlin claimed it was willing to work with the UN to fight the dangers of a food crisis, following talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. However, no substantial measures were reported.

Yermak said Ukrainian troops pushed the Russian military out of the island, adding the Kremlin’s claims were false.

“In Russia, they say about the alleged withdrawal of troops from Snake Island and present it as a ‘gesture of goodwill.’ Like, Russia does not interfere with humanitarian corridors for the export of Ukrainian grain. But all this is a complete fake,” Yermak said on Telegram.

He reiterated accusations that Russia was spurring an international food crisis by choking Ukrainian ports and targeting food warehouses.

Ukraine and Russia account for nearly a third of global wheat reserves. At the same time, Ukraine is a significant exporter of sunflower and corn oil, and Russia is an essential global exporter of fertilizer.

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