Reporter explains why a tiny island in the Black Sea is vitally important to both Russia and Ukraine

Reporter explains why a tiny island in the Black Sea is vitally important to both Russia and Ukraine

When Russian forces, on orders from President Vladimir Putin, invaded Ukraine on February 24, the Kremlin was hoping to easily take full control of the country. Instead, Ukrainian forces have fought back vigorously. NATO, in late March, estimated that somewhere between 7000 and 15,000 Russian troops had been killed in the conflict; in a statement in early May, the Ukraine military said the number was more than 25,000.

One piece of land that is important to both Russia and Ukraine in the conflict, according to CNN, is Snake Island — which is in in the Black Sea about 30 miles off the coast of Ukraine. CNN reporter Tim Lister explains the tiny island’s importance in an article published by CNN’s website on May 13.

“Moscow has never laid claim to Snake Island,” Lister writes, “and it’s a long way from any part of the Russian mainland. It’s over 180 miles from Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014. In no geographical or historical sense could Russia claim it as their own. But history be damned because it has strategic value, and the Russians clearly thought it would be easy pickings.”

Russian forces, according to Lister, “went for Snake Island on the very first day of the war in late February” — and when Russian forces ordered a “small detachment of” Ukrainian sailors on the island to surrender, they responded, “Russian warship, go fuck yourself.”

“Allow the Russians to establish facts-on-the-rocks there, and Ukraine would no longer be able to guarantee the freedom of sea lanes between the port of Odesa and the rest of the world,” Lister notes. “It’s through Odesa that much of Ukraine’s agricultural wealth travels to global markets.”

Kyrylo Budanov, defense chief for Ukraine, told CNN, “Whoever controls the island can block the movement of civilian vessels in all directions to the south of Ukraine at any time.”

Lister reports, “So why are the Russians expending so much effort on holding Snake Island? Because it has the potential to be an unsinkable, if static, aircraft carrier, crammed with electronic warfare and anti-ship capabilities.”

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