Yesterday Russia’s Defence Ministry confirmed its troops have abandoned the Black Sea island, claiming they left as a gesture of goodwill.
But Ukrainian officials say Putin’s troops were driven off in five boats after a trouncing defeat at the hand of Kyiv’s forces.
The island – which was captured on the first day of Russia’s invasion – achieved worldwide fame when a Russian warship’s demand for inhabitants to surrender was met with a resounding “go f**k yourself” from 13 valiant border guards who were then slaughtered in an aerial bombardment.
The tiny outpost lies close to the coasts of Ukraine and Romania and is strategically important because it sits beside key shipping lanes which would in peacetime carry grain to feed the world.
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Dr Matthew Ford, a former West Point fellow and professor of International Relations at Sussex University, has told The Mirror that when well fortified, whoever moves troops on the island can control huge swathes of the Black Sea and its shipping lanes.
He explained: "And so if you sit yourself on top of that island you can literally shoot anything […] But it’s like a floating missile base. You can put loads of missiles on it.
"The problem is, it’s also really hard for the Russians to keep control of it because it's a fair distance from Crimea."
"You’re [ Russia ] going to have to patrol up and down around the island to resupply, which then creates its own problems if the Ukrainians have land-based anti ship missiles, which we know they have because they took down the Moskva."
MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)
The Moskva warship went down in the Black Sea at the start of April, killing 40 sailors after being hit by a Ukrainian missile.
Russia staunchly denied its most powerful Black Sea Fleet flagship was hit, claiming instead an accident lead to its sinking.
Mr Ford said the island has become “very hard for the Russians to keep control of” which is “why they’ve abandoned it”.
He added: "The Ukrainians have been attacking it constantly, in the hope of pushing them off. And now the Russians have thought 'if we’re going to spend a lot of naval power trying to maintain control over that one island. Is it really worth it’?”
The Kremlin continues to put old ships back in circulation, “upgrading, putting new gear into it”, Mr Ford said.
But building one from scratch takes too long and the Russians “can’t build the ships up quick enough”, he adds.
Rather than Snake Island being the strategic grail it’s been made out to be, it’s actually the supplies that move along the nearby shipping lanes which are what the Kremlin is desperate to control.
Mr Ford tells The Mirror: "What's more important to the Russians is they can guarantee can overall control over the maritime navigation in the Black Sea, which means they have to have ships.
"And if they lose ships trying to resupply Snake Island, then effectively it will undermine their capacity to control trade between Ukraine and out into the rest of the world which is what they want.
"So the strategic thing here is not the island, the strategic thing is controlling the grain, the sunflower oil and all the other bits and pieces that Ukraine produces.
"Right, because if you can do that, then you can control world markets, or you can shape them at least, and if you can shape world markets, then you can shape politics in Egypt – think of all the places that rely on Ukraine grain.”
David Beasley, who heads the UN World Food Programme, told a conference in Addis Ababa last month that “frightening” food shortages are looming.
Speaking about the blockade of Odesa, Mr Beasley warned that some of the world’s poorest countries, like Somalia, Benin, Laos, Egypt and Sudan will become “hell on earth” if the looming global famine is brought to a rapid halt.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Mr Ford agrees and fears this starvation could spark a migration crisis as early as 2023.
He told The Mirror: “Principally we’re now going to be looking at a migration crisis next year.
"And this crisis is going to flood the EU. What they want is to use humanitarian disaster against the EU.
"It’ll be a migration crisis because everyone’s gonna be starving. And that’s going to be an additional drain on the world economy.
"Russians have been weaponising humanitarian disaster consistently for the last five months."
“This push off of Snake Island is important because it's an indicator their control over the Black Sea might be weakening."
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