In 1944, the German Army began a counter-offensive against the Allies in the Ardennes which came to be known as the Battle of the Bulge as the German armoured thrusts penetrated deep into American lines. Soon an American contingent of about 11,000 troops from the 101st Airborne Division who had been hastily pushed forward were surrounded in Bastogne. The besieging German officer asked them to surrender as their position was hopeless. Gen. McAuliffe’s answer, “Nuts!” became the stuff of legend particularly as they heroically held out against vastly superior forces for seven days until relieved. Today the Americans are fighting another battle of the bulge and losing, but that’s a story for another time.
Fast forward to 2022. Snake Island is a 17 Ha rocky island, 35 km off the south-eastern Ukrainian coast, and it was manned by a contingent of less than 50 Ukrainian soldiers. It is an insignificant feature, but it effectively controls access to Ukraine’s last free seaport, Odessa. On the first day of the ‘Special Operation’ as the Russians euphemistically call it, Snake Island was besieged by two Russian warships, one of which was the ill-fated 12,000 ton missile cruiser, Moskva, pride of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Via radio, Moskva demanded the garrison’s surrender. Their response was a non-cryptic Cyrillic, ‘Русский военный корабль, иди на хуй’ (Russian warship, go fuck yourself!). That bit of heroic repartee cost 13 Ukrainian lives in the ensuing bombardment before surrendering to the Russians.
Since then, Ukraine has got their own back in spades. The Moskva was later sunk with the loss of many more lives that the Russians refuse to admit to or that it was even hit by Ukrainian missiles. The Russian forces on the island have been under routine attack by the full range of Ukrainian long-range systems – missiles, Su-27 aircraft and drones – with devastating results. 5 smallish boats of under 100 tons, a tugboat of 1200 tons, 2 helicopters, a badly damaged 10,000 ton logistics ship, several missile defence systems, ammunition supplies and numerous deaths later, the Russians called it a day on 30 June.
Desperate to save face for their embarrassing failure and determined to continue the pretence of holding the moral high ground, a Bloodimir Putin stooge announced that their withdrawal was a gesture of goodwill!