Russia had moved to bring powerful surface-to-air missile systems to the island to support its ground forces.
But the Russian navy began operating further from the Ukrainian coast, out of range of land-based anti-ship missiles supplied by the United States and other NATO countries that began arriving in late May. Around June 20, Ukrainian forces renewed their attack on the island, attacking a Russian tugboat carrying weapons and personnel to the island.
The Ukrainians “almost certainly” used newly delivered harpoon missiles in the attack, according to the British military, which said it was their first demonstrated use.
Satellite images released over the past week showed the results of the battle from space – new large scars rising from the sea’s 46 acres of rock and grass.
On Thursday morning, the Ukrainian army said it had used rockets and artillery to knock out yet another Russian anti-missile defense system. “Snake Island is covered with fire, explosions can be heard,” the Ukrainian command said. After the Russians withdrew, it was unclear whether the Ukrainians would attempt to re-establish their own garrison, given the island’s vulnerability to attack.