Ukraine War Day #128: Retreat From Snake Island!

Dear Readers:

Well, what can I say? Snake Island was back in the news yesterday, and the news is not good for the pro-Russian crowd. While Team Ukraine danced and hooted like chimpanzees, Team Russia erupted in disbelief and anger. Here is a typical comment:

Denis Zhevak on iEarlGrey:

Because of this island. In Russia, unrest on the Internet has literally begun. Everyone is swearing at the authorities and the command about the “gesture of goodwill”. There was talk of a treacherous government that had agreed on something behind the scenes with Europe and was betraying the Russian people. The same thing happened when the Russian command decided to leave the Kiev region.

Like the American Civil War, this is a war of cannons.

We Russians, from love for their government to complete hatred is one step.
Everyone is swearing “Why did our soldiers die there? And you just gave away the island, you pathetic corrupt officials. Probably agreed on something with Europe.” Something like that.
Putin had to take full responsibility for himself in order to extinguish the unrest in the media. He took responsibility for the exchange of “Azov”, said that it was his decision. Because then people also started swearing about why they exchanged Nazis.

In short, everything was smooth, but several events undermined the Russian public and the people began to insult the authorities again. But as soon as Putin takes responsibility, people calm down (Trust in him is bottomless). When the Russian soldiers left the Kiev region, the same thing happened, then people cooled down. Although then I remember the people called to put Medinsky in prison, who was negotiating at the time and looked pathetic. Then even Putin was reproached for not following who is negotiating on behalf of Russia. In such situations, people demand explanations from Putin, they always demand that he explain any actions.
People hate it when the state conducts agreements behind its back in such matters and then does not explain anything to the people, and the situation is explained as a “Gesture of goodwill”.

Alex Shu on Military Summary channel retorts:
If cannon artillery began to reach the island, then it no longer makes sense to stay on it.

Which will be my main point later on, as you shall see. (SPOILER ALERT!)

Peremoha Turns to Zrada

One recalls the classic joke about the Ukrainians with their two interlinked words peremoha (“victory”) and zrada (“betrayal”). And how the one keeps transforming into the other. Snake Island is an exact illustration of that point, but now from the Russian POV.

I saw the news early yesterday morning about the Russian garrison retreating from Snake Island (apparently they all just leaped into speedboats and sped away). Somewhat later I clicked on this headline article in VZGLIAD, thinking, “Hm, let’s see how Russian mainstream media spin this defeat…” The headline gives us a hint at the new talking point:

Russia Has Converted Snake Island Into a Trap For the Ukrainian Armed Forces!

Yeah, right. But wait till you hear the “real” reason for this zrada: It’s to send a signal of “good will” to the United Nations and Western countries. Uh huh. Readers and commenters of the Russian blogosphere are not necessarily buying this kool-aid. As we saw in the sample comment above, words like “traitor” and “treason” are being bandied about. And that commenter was fairly mild in his disgruntlement, comparatively, his point being, Don’t treat us like children. If there is a bitter pill to be swallowed, then just give it to us straight. And no more of these behind-the-curtain maneuvers.

Another blogo-commenter points out how just a week ago (and I covered that in one of my earlier posts), the VZGLIAD editors were earnestly trying to convince us that Snake Island is the most strategically important object in the war for reasons a) b) and c) — in the current article the VZGLIAD reporters, to their credit, reiterate and review these earlier talking points, instead of trying to drop them down a memory hole, as Westie media would do. Another commenter chafes that, just a few days ago, Putin was awarding a posthumous medal to the hero officer who perished while bringing anti-air defenses to the tiny island. Was his sacrifice all in vain?

to Snake Island!”

Well, war is war. Shit happens. If the brass say they need to retreat because things got too hot, just do it, but don’t try to feed us pablum about humanitarian gestures. I shall take the red pill, if you please. Meanwhile, what I will do here is work through this piece, which consists of a) editorial contortionism that would make a Chinese circus acrobat blush, b) some honest analysis, c) some promise not to allow Ukies to turn the island into their own playground, d) a MacArthur-ite vow to return (once Odessa is taken) and e) a goodly portion of B.S., in my view, especially the bit about trying to help feed the world with Ukrainian grain.

I shall give you my own opinion right off the bat, then I’ll translate/summarize the piece so my readers can make up their own minds. My opinion: it seems to me (and this is very fluid, so don’t assume I am married to this talking point) is that the Russian soldiers were forced off the island by too-heavy Ukrainian artillery, and just taking too many losses to make it worth it. The turning point was Ukies acquiring Westie cannon with a longer range. Long enough to reach Snake from Odessa. Then, forced to abandon this rock, which they previously convinced us was the most important thing in the world, the Russian military tries to sweeten the pill by painting it as a beau geste of unparalled virtue. Meanwhile, we shall meet various analysts who offer other plausible theories, for example: Maybe this was a quid pro quo to Westie enemies, in return for de-blockading Kaliningrad? [paint me dubious]

If I Could Feed The World

Well, without further ado, let us dive into this multiple-dimension chess puzzle and see if we can figure it out. The reporters/analysts here are Alena Zadorozhnaya and Darya Volkova. They begin by laying out the new party line about Russia withdrawing its garrison voluntarily, as a “good-will gesture”. To prove to the world that tis not we who are blocking grain-filled vessels from leaving the Black Sea! And allegedly as a direct response to a request from the United Nations. Well, since the UN asked us nicely, who are we to say no?

Next, the authors masochistically take us through the history of the island, its strategic importance, even quoting from earlier op-eds from the same newspaper, on why it was impossible to abandon it. Again, this shows a certain integrity, although the authors know very well they are dealing with readers who have a memory longer than that of a mayfly, and can very well recall words they read, oh, say, a week ago. In the course of several lengthy paragraphs (which I don’t have time to summarize), they take us through the tortured series of events post-February 24, the numerous Ukrainian attempts to seize the island, the heroic Russian defense, etc.

Konstantin Sivkov

And then they finally arrive at the current turn of events: “Experts are convinced that Russia did not take this decision lightly, to withdraw this garrison from this island.” We meet a military expert named Konstantin Sivkov, who explains how the Ukrainians, after suffering numerous defeats and losing many planes, helicopters, soldiers, drones, etc., finally managed to acquire the kind of cannons that could do the job:

“We can assume from intelligence that was acquired, that the Ukrainian Armed Forces were preparing a massive attack against this island, an attack which would have been very difficult to repel, given the current state of forces. We do not exclude the possibility that they intended to employ French CAESAR self-propelled artillery systems.” Sivkov reminds us that similar systems have been employed by the Ukies on the island of Kubansky, which is located in the Odessa Oblast, near the mouth of the Beautiful Blue Danube River, just 36 kilometers (as the crow flies) from Snake Island. “Such [artillery] attacks against the island would have threatened with personnel losses, this is why the decision was taken,” Sivkov concludes.

A similar opinion is expressed by Rybar, one of the prominent pro-Russian bloggers of this war: After the Ukrainians had brought the CAESARs into Odessa, they, along with their Tochka-U complexes, formed an accelerating density of artillery fire that could not be evaded, therefore it was decided to evacuate the personnel from this death trap. Snake Island cannot be retaken until Odessa itself has been dealt with.

And that is my main theme here. And yet there is much, much more to this story, many other opinions to consider, and a few more twists to round things out…

[to be continued]

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20 Responses to Ukraine War Day #128: Retreat From Snake Island!

  1. colliemum says:

    ‘Editorial contortions’: yes, I’d go with that because people, i.e. readers and consumers of the MSM, are the same everywhere, basically: they want ‘news’ now, on social media channels, which have to be the truth because there are videos! They’ve got used to ‘experts’ and believe that, thanks to said social media info, they are as expertly as all the others whom they read in print. So they ‘know’ and they know what they’d have done were they Messrs Shoigu or Putin.
    Me, I dunno. I think not just about those new western weapons the Ukries now have in Odessa, able to pound said island. I also think about the fact that there’s no water on the island and that, before the 24th of February, there were only a tiny handful of Ukrie soldiers stationed on said island. I also recall the attempts orchestrated by NATO, with NATO input, weapons, intelligence, which were rebuffed, with great losses to the Ukrainians …
    So, given that Russia is now controlling a land spit pointing towards Odessa, the military planners might well have asked if this island is worth binding military resources to defend it.
    That’s what I think … and anyhoo: how do we know the Russians haven’t left behind some clever boobytraps? How do we know the wouldn’t lob a few missiles onto the heads of any Ukrie military trying to do something naughty?
    The point about letting the Ukries now export their wheat – after they have cleared all those mines – is, IMHO, inspired. Let them do some work – Russia has cleared the mines from Mariupol, why

    Like

    • yalensis says:

      You raise some clever chess-type moves, yes indeed, we have a lot of things to think about! The point about Russia controlling that spit is a particularly good one.
      The one thing I won’t accept, though, is those pro-Russian bloggers who are suddenly, like, “Oh, it’s just a tiny speck of rock, who cares?” They sound the same kind of sour grapes as when the pro-Ukies suddenly started going, “Oh, who cares about Lisichansk? It’s just a pile of rubble anyhow…”
      This, because previous researches convinced me that Ukies on Snake was a bad idea because… cannon-balls could reach all the way to Sebastopol!

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      • colliemum says:

        I agree regarding those pro-Russian bloggers. After all, it should be ‘goose, gander – meet sauce’.
        However, one blogger (Bernhard/MoA) has just published a nice analysis about the situation regarding Kharkov where Russia withdrew … and how by now they’ve been beating the Ukries who followed them in that retreat.
        I seem to vaguely recall lessons from History where armies a bit bigger than this ‘Kraken’ Batallion followed the retreating Russians … it didn’t end well for those Armies. That’s what happens when one doesn’t learn from history.
        Meanwhile, a Ukrie military spokesperson sez they have no intention of occupying Snake Island at the moment … perhaps they’ve looked into their history books? Or perhaps someone has had a sound education in classical languages, remembering the verse ‘timeo Danaos et dona ferrentem’, meaning: ‘I fear the Greeks when they bear gifts’ … that was in relation to yon Trojan Horse …
        Ah well, as my mum used to say: ‘it’ll all evolve naturally’ …

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        • yalensis says:

          Somehow I doubt there are too many current Ukrainians who have an education in the classics, but you never know. Maybe Arestovich, he seems to be the cleverest of the bunch. And yes, that is one of the speculations in the blogosphere, namely that the Russians left a nice Trojan Horse behind on the island. How very appropriate, considering this is the place where Achilles is buried!
          🙂

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  2. Liborio Guaso says:

    In fact, the Russians know that the West uses war to calm its internal problems, as in the 50s of the last century the cold war justified repression, that is why they do not allow themselves to be provoked by acting with great precautions, letting time pass.

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  3. FatMax says:

    So, Russia is crushing and destroying Hohol army in the Donbass and these baboons can only hoot and holler “treason” because some little island was deserted and “military analysts” claimed it was the bee’s knees, strategy-wise?
    Ah, Russian public is as dumb as European or American one? Sad. I expected more.
    Oh, well.

    “Was his sacrifice all in vain?”
    Maybe. Does it matter? He was a soldier. This is what soldiers do. The fuck is the Russian Army supposed to do? Stay on this little rock and suffer continuous shelling?
    Dumbasses. Maybe those who scream the loudest should enlist and serve their country? Then they’d understand (and accept) the fact that the soldier’s life is not his anymore to control.

    “beau geste of unparalled virtue”
    A bit of a reach, indeed. But now Hohols have no leg to stand on: grain shortage is their responsibility. Maybe they should get crackin’ and start clearing those mines they’ve spread around willy-nilly. Are those things still floating around the Black Sea?
    Tsk, tsk. 😀

    Like

    • yalensis says:

      Yeah, as far as I know, those mines are still just swimming around like nobody’s business. Ukies initially anchored them, but (so I read) the moorings broke because were improperly tied. Maybe there were some sailors who didn’t know how to tie knots? I wonder…

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  4. S Brennan says:

    Not a military mastermind, just somebody on the internet with prior US Army service, way back when the USSR roamed the earth, we were trained in fire and maneuver. Part of that training was, If your position becomes untenable and your forces will be destroyed to no advantage, then retreat/withdrawal is a legitimate maneuver. I add, that redeployment of forces to effect victory often requires withdrawal from one area to another. So far, Russia’s command structure has run this campaign well and for Russians in the cheap seats to condemn their commanders..well, if you feel that way about it, put on the uniform and earn the rank of commander or, bridle the critisism.

    All that said; as told readers HERE, about ten days ago, while I think Russia will prevail due to logistics, this war has a long way to go. This because the USA is foolishly spending money at a rate that will impoverish weaken the USA for decades in a struggle for a piece of real estate that has no strategic value to the USA/Europe; this to salve the egos of 3rd rate think-tanks and to enrich a few in the DNC cabal, like the Biden Crime Family. Empires often fall when frail egos rule for too long and the marriage of DNC to the national security state, [with the full-throated support of the urban Democrat voter] and the Cheney-esque faction of the RNC has resulted in a, so far, unassailable power base that can not, so far, be dislodged.

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    • yalensis says:

      Thanks for your input, S. I appreciate your military experience and expertise.

      Yeah, there are a lot of armchair generals out there, that is certainly true!
      I get that, if the position became untenable and dangerous, because of the enemy artillery, then for sure these soldiers needed to leave. My only beef is when the brass try to sugarcoat it and not just tell it straight. Most of the rage of the plebs was directed at the “gesture of good will” kool-aid offered by the Russian MOD. Made it sound like they trust Ukies or NATO to do the right thing in some reciprocal gesture. Instead, NATO will see this as a weakness and just keep hitting harder. Indeed, I scanned some Westie headlines earlier today. Newsweek, for example, was trumpeting that “We could be seeing the tide turn!” and other such irritating nonsense.

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      • S Brennan says:

        Time, Newsweek, NYTimes, WaPo, CNN, MSNBC et al are 3LA mouthpieces, just as Pravda & Izvestia were Kremlin mouthpieces back in the day except…both Pravda & Izvestia would occasionally tell the truth on an important matter. It’s been decades since that’s accidentally happened at the aforementioned 3LA mouthpieces and…their precipitous readership declines reflect that supplication to the security state’s narrative.

        Yes, media people get paid a lot to whore themselves but..how does it feel to know your comfortable life came…not through talent or effort but through personal depravity? And how does it feel to know your personal depravity resulted in the death of millions; how does that feel when you approach your mortal demise?

        From the people I knew in the biz, the answer seems to be, they feel no remorse, “if I didn’t take the money somebody else would’ve” seems to be the response when all the other worthless rationalizations are slapped aside.

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        • yalensis says:

          So sadly true. I don’t think any of these Westie media whores is capable of any human feelings, least of all remorse. Even as their mortal demise approaches, they probably just snap their fingers and go, “Damn, I led a good life and made a lot of money!”

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  5. Stephen T Johnson says:

    Hmm…Team Russia really seems to suck at the propaganda side of things. However, it seems pretty clear they’re winning handily on the military and economic fronts. I’m not sure when / whether / how this changes.
    The strategic importance (or otherwise) of Snake Island and/or the practicality of holding it – well, who the hell knows, really. It remains true, in any case, that the main event is in the Donbass, aand that’s going passably well.

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  6. Lex says:

    The statement was a poorly thought out face saving gesture. It is an important place. It is also an indefensible place for either side at this point. And trying to defend indefensible positions in a war is how you lose them. It was not initially indefensible for Russia, but western weapons along the coast where they’re easy to hide complicates the situation.

    Russia will return to the island. And it does have some aspects of a trap because every time Ukraine shoots at the island or attempts a move on it, it has to reveal force dispositions on the Odessa coast. For now, Russia can “win” be just periodically leveling everything there. It will take the island when it returns for Odessa. And it must take Odessa because if it doesn’t there will be a US/UK base there before any truce ink is even dry. The air defenses of Sevastopol are impressive, but not perfect (because they can’t be). With Odessa, the US/UK can seriously threaten Sevastopol and have the ability to blockade the Black Sea. I cannot imagine that Odessa is not the #1 geopolitical goal of the whole operation at this point. A land bridge to crimea was the first; liberation of the Donbas the second; and, Odessa the point of phase III. As an aside, Odessa may be being left for the moment because I expect the US/UK to fully abandon Ukraine as soon as Odessa falls. Not capturing it is essentially a tar baby for the US/UK to keep shooting themselves in the face over Ukraine.

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  7. Beluga says:

    What a hoot! The Russian blogosphere upset about their soldiers leaving Snake island — I look forward to the reporting in Part II.

    I see on ASB Military News today (you know, the place with hundreds of generally nothingburger videos, all thoroughly vetted for truth they claim, and with much crowing commentary about the might of Russia), they actually do mention that the Russian MOD explained things were too hot to stay. I guess the winds have been balmy recently and M777ER rounds were finally hitting the island. A WW1 battleship 15 inch naval gun could do the same trick but with an alnost one tonne projectile at the same extreme range for a much bigger bang than an M777 — mind you, it needed a new barrel insert liner after 300 rounds due to erosion of the rifled bore from the hot gases of the charge.

    Today Ukraine complains that Russia has just used phosporus bombs on the Island — to incinerate non-existent snakes from the outside in, one presumes and thus anathema to any true nature lover, but also to burn down the huts, weapons, AA missiles and ammo they couldn’t cram on the two speedboats when they left. Ahem. “Is there room for my Pantsir, Dmitry? Move over a bit, please.” Nice drone video of an explosion on the island at night or by infrared is available all over the web, but no way of really telling whose munitions are actually being shown. Still, what in hell is Ukraine complaining about in mock outrage? There are no humans there to be incinerated,

    No matter who sits on that benighted hunk of rock, it is subject to withering fire from the other side. So whatever strategically important justification anyone can dream up about the island, it has all been rendered moot anyway because no one is safe on it. As should have been obvious for some time, in my opinion, because it is a sitting duck target.

    Don’t know why, I suddenly fancy a slab of that fresh bread from a DPR field bakery. The kind they wheeled in to feed civilians in Mariupol. The loaf just looks so darn good. I’ve baked bread weekly for over 35 years, but never managed to make a loaf that looks quite like that. I think it’s like pizza, you need a hot, hot oven and daily practice to turn out such mouth-watering-looking bread.

    Like

    • yalensis says:

      Hey, Beluga, funny comment, you made me laugh. Especially the bit about trying to fit their Pantsir onto the speedboat. I don’t think I saw that video about the bread, but it sure sounds yummy. I won’t claim that Russians make the best bread in the world (that would be Gruzians, probably), but it’s probably right up there.
      Anyhow, not sure what is ASB Military channel, is that the same thing as that god-awful Intel Slava? I watch some of the Intel Slava vids out of curiosity, but a lot of the rah-rah tone turns me off, they be like “Watch how some Ukrie pigs got burned…” and show dead bodies and stuff, I don’t like that sort of thing, it’s cruel and unnecessary. Also turns my stomach.

      I did watch the phosphorus bomb video though, wondered if it was just Ukie propaganda, but then again, it may have happened as you said, to make sure the Russians burned all the stuff they had to leave behind. I feel bad for the snakes under phosphorus bombardment. I mean, I don’t like snakes myself, but they are still living things.
      Somebody on blogosphere was suggesting they make a new Indiana Jones movie set on Snake Island. Indiana be like, “Snakes… why it have to be snakes?” as he is searching for the mystical tomb of Achilles…

      Like

  8. square coats says:

    I do feel like Russia leaving the island is a bit of a nothingburger itself since it will likely be equally impossible for ukies to put anyone on it. I feel most frustrated at the attempt to portray it at a move to allow grain to leave Ukraine freely since as I understand it Russia was already making daily safe passage corridors for ships to pass through and broadcasting the coordinates every 15 minutes in Russian and english and in fact Ukraine was keeping ships hostage essentially at dock, in addition to the aforementioned mines. So it seems like this weakens Russia’s position on the matter. I read somewhere awhile back that Russia has been winning approval around the world because it’s been by and large honest about what’s happening, as a matter of fact but also compared to western msm. You mentioned the retreat from Kiev which this calls to mind for me too, since Russia said at the time was a gesture of goodwill in response to the peace talks making progress (just before Bojo gave Zelensky that surprise visit). That I found frustrating as well because it undermined the argument that Russia had put troops outside Kiev strategically to pull Ukraine’s troops away from the primary efforts going on in the Donbas and particularly in Mariupol. In any case, thank you yalensis!

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    • yalensis says:

      Thanks, square coats! I think we see eye to eye on that “good will gesture” nonsense. Although there is always the possibility that the Russian MOD have a drier sense of humor than we give them credit for.

      Like

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