The island (known in Ukrainian as Zmiinyi Ostriv) is about 30 miles (48 km) from the Ukrainian coast and near the sea route leading to the Bosphorus Strait and the Mediterranean Sea.
Moscow has never claimed Snake Island and is far from any part of mainland Russia. It is more than 180 miles away from Crimean, which was annexed by Russia in 2014. In a geographical or historical sense, Russia cannot claim it to be theirs.
But history is terrible, as history has strategic value and the Russians clearly thought it was an easy choice. Even before the conflict, Ukraine knew it was vulnerable. Last year, President Volodymyr Zelensky flew to Snake Island, where there are no voters but sheep, and emphasized that it was important. “This island, like the rest of our territory, is the land of Ukraine and we will do our best to protect it,” he said.
But Jijima has more than its symbolic importance. Allow the Russians to establish the facts there. Then Ukraine can no longer guarantee the freedom of sea lanes between the port of Odesa and the rest of the world. It is through Odesa that much of Ukraine’s agricultural assets move to the world market.
Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence Director, Kirilo Budanov, said Friday that anyone holding Snake Island controls “the surface of southern Ukraine and some atmospheric conditions.”
“Anyone who controls the island can block the movement of private vessels to southern Ukraine at any time,” Budanov added.
For that reason alone, Ukraine has vowed to the Russians to deny it, even if the territory cannot be regained immediately.
In a series of attacks over the last 10 days, the drone and other assets have attacked Russian units seeking to strengthen their presence on the island.
Satellite images on May 12 show a submerged lander near the island’s only wharf, and Ukraine states that it also collided with two nearby patrol vessels.
Other images over the weekend showed two rows of smoke rising from the island. One is believed to be from the Mi-8 helicopter that brought in the Russian Marines. According to a drone video released by the Ukrainian army, it was targeted by a missile. The video also shows footage of the anti-aircraft facility on the island being attacked.
The Odessa junta claimed on Thursday that the Russian support vessel “Vsevolod Bobrov” had fired and was towed from the area of Snake Island to Sevastopol. This claim remains unconfirmed by the CNN, and Russia has denied losses around the island.
So why are Russians spending so much effort to keep Snake Island? If static, it’s an aircraft carrier packed with electronic warfare and anti-ship capabilities, as it may not be able to sink. On Thursday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said Russians were “trying to improve their position on the island to thwart Ukraine’s maritime communications and capabilities to the northwestern Black Sea, especially Odesa.”
Budanov could also help Russians if Snake Island is run by a pro-Russian government and wants to strengthen its presence in the isolated region of Transnistoria in Moldova, where about 1,500 Russian troops are based. I pointed out that there is.
Snake Island has actually been contested before, but only in court. Romania and Ukraine had long-standing territorial disputes over the islands and surrounding seabeds that may contain potential hydrocarbons. The International Court of Justice finally decided in 2009 the status of the island and the border of the exclusive economic zone of Ukraine and Romania.
This time, it seems very unlikely that the fate of Jijima will be decided in court.