MOSCOW (AFP): Russia said Thursday it had pulled its forces from Ukraine’s Snake Island, calling it a “goodwill gesture” to allow Kyiv to export agricultural products.
“On June 30, as a gesture of goodwill, the Russian armed forces completed their tasks on Snake Island and withdrew a garrison stationed there,” the defence ministry said in a statement.
The announcement came after Ukraine had launched several raids on Russians forces on the Black Sea island.
The Russian defence ministry said the withdrawal was aimed at demonstrating the world that “Russia is not impeding UN efforts to organise a humanitarian corridor to ship agricultural products from Ukraine”.
Moscow added that the “ball is now in Ukraine’s court”, accusing the pro-Western country of having still not de-mined its Black Sea coast.
“KABOOM! No Russian troops on Snake Island anymore. Our Armed Forces did a great job,” Ukrainian presidential aide Andryi Yermak said on Twitter.
Ukraine’s southern military command wrote on Facebook that during the night Russia “hurriedly evacuated the remains of its garrison” from the island following “strikes by our missile and artillery units”.
It said the island is “covered in fire, explosions are erupting”, posting a dimmed photo of what appears to be the island with billowing clouds of smoke.
Ukraine has accused Russia of stealing its grain, contributing to a global food shortage caused by grain exports blocked in Ukrainian ports.
Snake Island became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance after a radio exchange went viral at the start of the war, in which Ukrainian soldiers used an expletive in rebuffing a demand by a Russian warship to surrender.