Ukraine’s Attacks on Snake Island Hint That Russia’s Black Sea Fleet’s Influence on the War May Be Over – Opinion

If there is one geographical feature of Ukraine that Putin’s War has moved to the forefront of people’s minds, it is Zmiinyi Island, also known as Serpent Island or Snake Island. This tiny speck is located in the Black Sea about 20 miles from the Danube mouth. It measures 700 yards by 700 yard, which equals 0.08 sq. miles. On February 24, two Russian ships, the guided missile cruiser and the guided ship Russian-based submarine cruiser, brought Snake Island into public attention. Moskva (see BREAKING. Russian Flagship Falls While Being Town to Port Vasily Bykov demanded the surrender of the 13 Ukrainian border guards stationed on the island and received the epic response “Russian warship, go f*** yourself.”

Russians began to fortify Snake Island using surface-to-air SA-15 Gauntlet missiles, and close-range defense with ZS 223-2 guns. Strela missiles. A few patrol boats were also stationed on the island. It could have a significant impact on the outcome of the conflict in south Ukraine if the Russians decide to send their S-300. The S-300’s range is approximately 120 miles. The Ukrainian Air Force would be prevented from flying over Odesa or Ukrainian territories between Odesa (and the Danube). It is now more concerning because Russia could conduct an amphibious attack south of Odesa in order to weaken Ukrainian defenses, and connect with separatists from the Transnistria area of Moldova.

You can read my take on that operation in 10 Days Into Putin’s ‘New Phase’ of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine, There Are Minor Advances but the Clock Is Ticking.

For the past week, we’ve seen the Ukrainians begin a deep shaping operation directed at Snake Island. “Deep” and “shaping” are not merely adjectives; they are terms of art. An operation that disrupts uncommitted enemy units is called a deep one. You can describe depth in terms either of the distance the enemy forces would need to get to the battlefield or the time they would take. A shaping operation sets the conditions for success in the commander’s planned decisive operation.

It began with the Ukrainian Bayraktar on April 30 TB2 Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs) carrying out attacks on Snake Island’s close-range air defense systems.

This attack eliminated the immediate threat to the UCAVs. The UCAVs then came after the patrol boats on May 2.

On May 6, the UCAVs seized the SA-15 (Russian name: TOR), and its Transporter-Launcher and Radar, TLAR.

The Russians attempted to rebuild the SA-15 that was destroyed on May 7. The UCAVs waited.

Below are images of Battle Damage Assessment (BDA) photos.



Two SU-27s from the Ukrainian Air Force visited the island shortly after the landing craft had been smoked.

All of that can you take to mean anything? There are two possible interpretations. One possibility is that the Ukrainians plan to keep the island uninhabited. It does not have long-range air defence systems and its primary purpose is to protect the Russian Black Sea Fleet vessels operating from Crimea. Since the Russian Navy appears less interested in conducting operations near Ukraine than the Russian Navy, the garrison at the island would manage approximately 9 miles worth of airspace that Ukraine should be able avoid without any problems. Russia must exert considerable effort to remove the defense system and may take great risks in order to supply the island with food and other supplies. That said, I’ve seen no previous indication that Ukraine is willing to focus this kind of attention on a target without a purpose.

It is the second alternative that’s more appealing. Snake Island is about 170 miles from the Black Sea Fleet’s homeport of Sebastopol. Neptune is capable of traveling a maximum distance of 170 miles.

The shaping attack is intended to remove the Russians’ ability on Snake Island to resist an air attack operation by Ukraine in preparation of a deep attack on neutralizing the Black Sea Fleet.

The Russian Navy could be neutralized in the Black Sea by using a combination of British Brimstone and Neptune missiles. This would allow for the operation of Ukrainian air forces in the region, provided that there is sufficient support from air defense units located on Snake Island as well as the Ukrainian coast. It could serve as an unstoppable defense for Ukraine, if it is able to maintain the garrison. This could prevent Russia from conducting an amphibious operation in Ukraine or exercising naval power.


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