KYIV, Ukraine – As Ukrainian forces launch another attack on Snake Island in the Black Sea, recent attacks suggest they are using powerful Western anti-ship weapons in an effort to undermine Russian naval rule.
The Ukrainian army’s southern command said late Tuesday it was using “various troops and methods of destruction” to attack Russian infrastructure on Snake Island, a patch of land south of Odessa that is critical to attempts to control the Black Sea. . On Wednesday morning, the army said it had destroyed a Russian air defense system, radar installation and vehicles on the island.
Russia’s defense ministry said it foiled the attack, which it said used 15 drones and long-range missiles and aimed to land Ukrainian soldiers on the island. “The failed fire attack forced the enemy to stop landing on Snake Island,” the Russian army said.
The Russians said that “after being convinced that the attempt to capture the island had failed,” the Ukrainians had used long-range anti-ship missiles and drones to attack Russian gas infrastructure facilities in the northwestern Black Sea.
The details of the battle offered by the two sides could not be immediately verified. But Ukrainian officials defended the target of Russian offshore drilling infrastructure and said Moscow converted its rigs into military installations by installing high-tech surveillance and communication systems on the rigs.
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The current round of battle around Snake Island appeared to begin Friday, when Ukrainians attacked a Russian naval tugboat on a mission to bring weapons and personnel to the island.
On Tuesday, British Army intelligence said Ukraine had “almost certainly” used newly delivered harpoon missiles in the attack — their first demonstrated use. Ukraine’s coastal defense capabilities have now “largely neutralized” Russia’s ability to project maritime violence into the northwestern Black Sea, according to the British analysis.
Andriy Zagorodnyuk, a former Ukrainian defense minister, said Ukrainian weapons on Monday hit a former natural gas platform where Russian forces had placed radio jamming equipment, preventing Ukraine from getting an accurate picture of the area. Zagorodnyuk said the attacks could be an indication that the important naval weapons Ukraine sought from its western allies had arrived.
The Russians said the Ukrainian attack on the drilling rig had sparked an intensive fire and could lead to “an environmental disaster”.
The attacks at sea are taking place amid an intensification of bombing raids on southern Ukraine. The Ukrainian military has reported more than two dozen Russian rocket attacks in recent days. Serhii Bratchuk, the spokesman for Odessa’s regional military administration, said a Russian missile attack on Odessa on Monday hit targets, including a food warehouse and cemetery.
As both sides duel in the Black Sea, the world grapples with a global food crisis caused by a Russian naval blockade that prevents Ukrainian ships from leaving port carrying millions of tons of grain.
Snake Island – which occupies just 46 acres of rocks and grass – is vital to Ukrainians and Russians alike. If the Russians are in control of the island, just over 20 miles offshore, they can control the shipping lanes in the northwestern corner of the Black Sea.
After a series of attacks by Ukrainian forces in and around Snake Island in May, Russia reinforced its outpost there with multiple surface-to-air missile systems, according to satellite images and Ukrainian officials.
Mr Bratchuk said the Russians were trying to turn the garrison on the island into “something that could be analogous to the Moskva warship.” The Ukrainians sank the Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, in April. While Ukraine had a handful of domestically made anti-ship missiles called Neptune at the time, powerful harpoon systems now seem to be entering the country from the west.