Russia abandons Serpent Island in strategic victory for Ukraine

KIEV (Reuters) – Russian forces abandoned the Serpent Island strategic outpost in the Black Sea on Thursday in a major victory for Ukraine that could ease a Russian grain export blockade that threatens to exacerbate world hunger.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said it decided to withdraw as a “goodwill gesture” that shows Moscow is not standing in the way of United Nations (UN) efforts to open a humanitarian corridor that allows grain to be shipped from Russia. Ukrainian ports.

Ukraine said it expelled Russian forces after a massive artillery and overnight attack.

“There are no more Russian troops on Serpent Isle. Our Armed Forces did a great job,” Andriy Yermak, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, said on Twitter.

Ukraine’s southern military command posted an image on Facebook of what appeared to be the island, seen from the air, with at least five huge columns of black smoke rising above it in what it described as a missile and artillery strike.

“The enemy hastily withdrew the rest of the garrison with two launches and probably left the island. At the moment, Serpent Isle is consumed by fire and explosions.”

Reuters could not immediately verify the photograph or battlefield accounts from both sides.

The rocky outcrop controls shipping lanes to Odessa, Ukraine’s main Black Sea port, where Russia’s blockade has impeded grain exports from one of the world’s top suppliers, creating a global shortage, price inflation and the risk of famine. .

Russia captured the island on the first day of the war, when a Ukrainian guard there, ordered by the Russian cruiser Moskva to surrender, radioed back “Russian warship: go f.”

This incident was immortalized on a Ukrainian postage stamp. On the day the seal was issued, Ukraine sank the ship, the flagship of the Russian Black Sea fleet.

Last month, the British Defense Ministry said that if Russia were able to consolidate its hold on Serpent Island with coastal defense cruise missiles and air defense, it could dominate the northwest Black Sea.

Russia has defended the island since February, despite Ukraine increasingly claiming to cause serious damage, sinking supply ships and destroying Russian fortifications.

The island is within the range of the Himars shot from the Ukrainian mainland. Ukraine began fielding the powerful new rocket system sent by the United States last week.

“Ukraine’s receipt of Harpoon and Himars anti-ship missiles has put Russian forces on the island at increasing risk,” Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the US Foreign Policy Research Institute, wrote on Twitter.

“The most significant aspect is that this could open the door for Ukrainian grain exports from Odessa, which is crucial for Ukraine’s economy and global food supply.”

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