Russian forces on Thursday left Snake Island, a strategic Black Sea outpost made famous in the early stages of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine when defenders tersely and profanely rejected an attacking warship’s demand to surrender. The incident became a symbol of Ukrainian defiance in the face of what at the time seemed overwhelming odds.
The reason for the overnight evacuation depends on which side is talking. Kyiv says they drove off the Russians in a military attack, forcing the occupiers to flee in a pair of speedboats. The Russian Defense Ministry said the Russian mission there had been accomplished.
“They couldn’t stand the weather — the ground was burning under their feet, the sea was boiling, the air was too hot,” Ukrainian military officials said early Thursday in a cheeky Twitter message.
While photographs of smoke rising from the rocky island lend credence to Ukraine’s claims, Russian defense officials said they left the island as a gesture of “goodwill,” stating their forces withdrew after they “completed their tasks.”
Kyiv and the West have accused Moscow of causing a global food crisis by blocking Ukrainian agricultural exports from leaving Black Sea ports. It’s an accusation that Moscow denies.
“The Russian Federation does not interfere with the efforts of the [United Nations] to organize a humanitarian corridor for the export of agricultural products from the territory of Ukraine,” Russian military officials said in a statement posted on the Telegram social networking application.