The island (also known as Zmiinyi) covers an area of just one square kilometer and there are no more snakes left there. But there is no doubt about his
importance in controlling the western Black Sea.
“If the Russian troops manage to occupy the Snake Island and establish their long-range air defense systems, they will control the sea, land and air in the northwestern part of the Black Sea and in the south of Ukraine,” he told the BBC Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov.
Source: UKRAINIAN FORCES This helicopter exploded seconds after this screenshot was taken on Snake Island. Both Russia and Ukraine have claimed responsibility for the attack.
That is why the Russian flagship, the
Moscowsailed there a few hours after the start of the war, telling the Ukrainian soldiers on the island to surrender: “I suggest you lay down your arms and surrender to avoid unnecessary bloodshed and casualties. Otherwise, you will be bombed,” a Russian official said.
“Russian warship get out of here,” was the now-legendary reply, albeit in much cruder language. The island was taken, but weeks later the Moskva was sunk.
Losing the Moskva means Russian supply ships now arriving on the island have minimal protection, Britain says.
However, if Russia can consolidate its position, then it could dominate a large part of the Black Sea.
Threat to Ukraine, its neighbors and NATO
A reinforced Russian presence could be disastrous for Ukraine, both strategically and
Ukraine has already had to close its port in Odessa, halting vital grain exports, but Zhdanov fears the island could also be used as a second front line.
“If the Russians manage to install long-range air defense systems, they will be able to defend their squadron, which can reach the Ukrainian coast.”
It would also give Russian troops the opportunity to break into
Transnistriathe separatist territory of Moldova under Russian control that is located next to Ukraine and not far from Odessa.
However, Snake Island is only
45 km from the coast of Romaniawhich is part of NATO.
UK naval analyst Jonathan Bentham believes a Russian S-400 airborne missile system on the island would be “a big game changer”.
If Russia were able to deploy a missile system, not only would Odessa be threatened, but NATO’s southern flank would also be in danger, Romanian historian Dorin Dobrincu warns.
“This is very important for the Romanian government and people, but also for the entire alliance. Russia would have the ability to destroy cities and military capacity in the east of our territory.”
NATO reinforced Romania’s borders from the beginning of the war, sending Belgian and French forces.
But there are also important
economic risks for Romania. The island is located near the mouth of the Danube River, which delimits its border with Ukraine.
The Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta is not far to the south and has been receiving container ships that can no longer sail to Odessa.
Russian political-military analyst Alexander Mikhailov believes that troops on Snake Island could be in a position to control traffic to the northwestern Black Sea and the Danube Delta, the gateway to southeastern Europe.
Source: UKRAINIAN POSTAL SERVICE The bravery of Ukrainian soldiers captured on Snake Island in late February was celebrated on a postage stamp.
“If there is a military base or military infrastructure, it would be possible to block ships entering the river as well as those leaving,” Mikhailov told Russian media.
The Romanian Euro-Atlantic Resilience Center believes that
Russia may decide to annex the island and control as many Black Sea shipping lanes as possible to the Bosphorus in Turkey.
Historically, Snake Island was Romanian territory until it was ceded in 1948 to the Soviet Union, which used it as a radar base. As Romania was under Soviet influence until 1989, Bucharest accepted the agreement.
With the fall of communism, Ukraine took control, and finally, in 2009, the International Court of Justice drew the territorial limits of the island, giving Romania nearly 80% of the Black Sea continental shelf near the island and Ukraine the rest.
Snake Island is not only for strategic use, because this part of the Black Sea is
rich in hydrocarbonsso the Hague ruling means that both countries have oil and gas reserves.
It may seem like a small group of rocks with little obvious value, but its future is of great importance to the Russian war.