Confetti looming over the waves, Snake Island is a strategic point in the Black Sea that poses both a major threat and a particular hazard.
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From the first day of the conflict in Ukraine, the Russians attacked to conquer it. This led to this episode highlighted by Kiev propaganda, where the Ukrainian Coast Guard radioed the Russian cruiser Moskva after it sank to piss off, giving this pebble a heavy symbolism that heightened its strategic interest.
Last week, the Ukrainians claimed to have bombed the island and destroyed a Russian battery, another example of their importance.
Indeed, the few hectare island offers a menacing shooting platform everywhere. It is about fifty kilometers from the mouth of the Danube, one of the most important rivers in Europe and an important trade route, about a hundred kilometers from Odessa and theoretically allows you to hit the entire Ukrainian coast.
It is less than 200 kilometers from the large Romanian port city of Constanta and 300 kilometers from the large Russian base in Crimea at Sevastopol.
In times of peace, the island offers a large marine area and associated wealth, especially hydrocarbons.
Romania and Ukraine also had to go to court to resolve their dispute over control of these resources. The International Court of Justice finally ruled in 2009, ruling that the island was Ukrainian.
In this war, “it is a fundamental strategic point that must be monitored: it blocks air and sea access to the entire Ukrainian coastline, it poses a threat to the Danube estuary,” explains the ship’s captain, Eric Lavault, spokesman for the French Navy .
On such a platform, the Russians “can place anti-aircraft equipment, anti-ship equipment, but also medium-range missile systems, in addition to the firepower of the ships of the Black Sea Fleet, it is a base that allows greater confidence in the approach to the Ukrainian coasts,” according to Igor Delanoë, deputy director of the French -Russian Observatory in Moscow and specialist in the Russian Navy.
But on the other hand, “the island is vulnerable,” analyzes Michael Petersen of the American Naval War College. “Every inhabitant can be attacked and it is difficult to protect such a small island.”
“If Ukrainians ever take a breather, there’s a knock up. That can be a good topic for the deployment of special forces,” says Eric Lavault.