The battle over Snake Island is apparently still continuing, with Ukraine claiming its attacks are ongoing even as Russia tries to reinforce the strategically important rock in the Black Sea.
Meanwhile, reports of the ongoing fight there come as Ukraine said Thursday it has finally received its first tranche of M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS).
“The operation against the occupiers on Snake Island will continue until his full release,” Ukraine Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, head of that nation’s Defense Intelligence directorate, said during a nationally televised address on Thursday morning Kyiv time.
During the latest attack, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, he said, hit a Russian Pantsir S1 air defense system.
The attacks are coming as Russia is trying to move troops and equipment onto the island, Budanov said.
“The Russian occupation forces are deploying a group on the island, which consists of air defense units, as well as units armed with jet artillery units,” he said, a Ukrainian reference to multiple launch rocket systems. “In addition, the island has a boat group and special forces.”
A satellite image The War Zone obtained that was taken this morning shows what appears to be massive new scorch marks on the island’s eastern side.
Another image, taken yesterday, shows fires burning on the island, but it does not include the massive scorch marks near its eastern edge:
The island has been under a series of Ukrainian attacks of late. Budanov has previously said that it is a key target for Ukraine’s armed forces because of its location.
"Whoever controls the island can block the movement of civilian vessels in all directions to the south of Ukraine at any time,” he said in May, according to Ukraine Pravda. Snake Island “is Ukrainian territory, and we will de-occupy it and fight for it for as long as needed.
“This is a strategically important point for opening sea trade routes, bringing us weapons, and excluding any possible military actions by Russia on the territory of the "Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic," from where they can attack the western part of Ukraine."
Coinciding with the ongoing attacks against Snake Island were Ukraine's attacks on Russian-operated gas drilling platforms in the Black Sea, which The War Zone covered earlier this week.
“The strike on drilling rigs or the so-called ‘Boyko towers’ is due to the militarization of buildings by the occupying forces,” a Ukraine intelligence source told The War Zone Thursday morning. “In particular, they were equipped with a command post and military radar equipment. As a result of the impact of Ukrainian anti-ship missiles, the platforms suffered significant damage, and the fire continues.”
Earlier this week, that Ukrainian intelligence source told The War Zone that multiple types of 155mm howitzers, 122mm BM-21 and 220mm BM-27 rocket artillery systems, Su-24 Fencer swing-wing combat jets, and Su-27 Flanker fighters had all taken part in recent operations targeting Snake Island, but this so far remains unconfirmed. It is worth pointing out that the very shortest distance between mainland Ukraine and the island is around 22 miles, which is beyond the range of even many extended-range 155mm shells and 122mm rockets. This can only raise questions about exactly how those weapons would have been employed in this instance, if they were at all.
Thursday, the Ukraine intelligence source said those systems are still being used against Snake Island.
“Installed air defense systems, additional ammunition and various military equipment were destroyed on the island,” the source said.
The HIMARS system would likely help any ongoing attacks on Snake Island.
Thursday morning, Ukraine Defense Minister Oleksii Resnikov tweeted out that the weapons system had finally arrived in Ukraine.
“HIMARS have arrived to Ukraine,” he tweeted. “Thank you to my colleague and friend @SecDef Lloyd J. Austin III for these powerful tools!"
"Summer will be hot for Russian occupiers. And the last one for some of them."
It’s unclear if the HIMARS have actually been used yet in Ukraine, but they would have the range necessary to strike targets on Snake Island, something The War Zone has noted would be a prime use of these systems.
The Ukraine intelligence source tells The War Zone that so far, the HIMARS have not been used against Snake Island.
Whether they will remains to be seen.
But one thing is clear. Ukraine says it will continue blasting Snake Island until the Russians leave.
“The operation will continue until the complete liberation of” Snake Island, Budanov said during the telethon.'
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