Epic battle. How Ukraine liberated Snake Island: HUR documentary (highlights)
Training for the landing operation on Snake Island (photo - video screenshot)

On May 8, 2022, a risky amphibious assault operation began on the Black Sea Snake Island. Several helicopters with open landing ramps flew to storm the island captured by the Russians, and groups of military intelligence special forces and fighters from the SBU's Alpha group flew in.

"This was a very important operation for Ukraine. Without control over the island, they would have destroyed us economically," said Kyrylo Budanov, Chief of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine.

How Ukraine liberated Snake Island and sank the cruiser Moskva with Neptune: LIGA.net watched the documentary "The Sea. The Battle for Snake Island" and recounts the highlights.


Since the beginning of the great war, the Russian army decided to seize Snake Island in order to have a military base closest to the Ukrainian coast (37 km away). About 80 soldiers and lighthouse staff were stationed there.

"I mustered my regular forces. The infantry commander, the company commander... also put their men on high alert. Everyone was expecting an offensive," recalls Bohdan Hodskyi, the island's garrison commander.

On the morning of February 24, there were no enemy warships around, but the voice of the aggressors was heard for the first time on the international open marine Channel 16 VHF. He did not yet threaten, but only tempted to treason.

Перше звернення російських військових до захисників Зміїного
The first appeal of the Russian military to the defenders of Zmiiny

No one caved in. Then very quickly direct threats were made. And then Russian warships appeared near the island: the patrol vessel Vasily Bykov, and then the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet – the missile cruiser Moskva.

"The Moskva was used to control the fleet and aviation that came in... The aviation bombed us, we could do nothing. It became clear that we were not going to win that round," says Hodskyi.

There were no losses yet, and the garrison was constantly offered to surrender. On the evening of February 24, a significant conversation was intercepted on land in the Izmail border guard detachment 50 kilometers away, when, in response to another offer to surrender, a Ukrainian warrior sent the cruiser Moskva away with a flea in the ear.

Третє і найбільш відоме звернення військових РФ до захисників Зміїного
The third and most well-known appeal of the Russian military to the defenders of Zmeiny

In the evening, the connection with the garrison of Snake Island was lost. Ukrainian border guards and marines were surrounded. The occupiers immediately brought a large amount of modern equipment and weapons to the island.

"The main thing was that the enemy did not control this area, because it was equipped with electronic intelligence, surveillance, and unmanned aerial vehicles," says Budanov. "There was a fairly powerful military air defense system that blocked the approach of our aviation. The Grad and Tornado-G systems could easily destroy any objects on the coast and interfere with shipping."

In order to destroy such a naval combat system, Ukraine had to get rid of its most formidable element: the cruiser Moskva.


On April 13, the Moskva cruiser was 120 kilometers from the Ukrainian coast. Ukrainian missile specialists saw it and identified a very large target. Defenders received confirmation from allies and fired two Neptune missiles at it, which were delivered to the Ukrainian Navy on the eve of the Russian full-scale invasion.

Both missiles hit the target. This was confirmed, in particular, by interception from a Russian tugboat. It tried unsuccessfully to save the cruiser, but it inevitably went down with hundreds of crew members.

Радіоперехоплення біля ворожого крейсера ''Москва''
Radio interception near the enemy cruiser

After the sinking of the Moskva, all other Russian warships no longer approached Ukrainian shores beyond 300 kilometers. Ukraine no longer had to worry about the threat of an enemy landing in Odesa Oblast. The Russians on Snake Island were left without support, and it became much more difficult for them to organize logistics. Ukraine systematically destroyed all the equipment they had managed to bring in. Especially air defense.

On April 26, a drone strike destroyed the control center on the island and the Strela anti-aircraft missile system.

On April 30, a second strike hit three ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft installations, another Strela, and a communications vehicle with telecommunications equipment. And 42 occupiers.

On May 2, the targets were Raptor high-speed military boats that were delivering cargo to the island, conducting reconnaissance, and taking out the wounded and dead. At the same time, radio intercepts recorded the hysterical cries of the captain of the 3rd Raptor boat, who was fleeing from Bayraktar missiles and asking for air support.

Радіоперехоплення атакованих російських катерів ''Раптор''
Radio interception of attacked Russian boats

On May 7, a battle of dozens of aircraft began over the island. After the enemy air defense was disabled, Ukrainian aircraft began to bomb it. A pair of Su-27s flew at low altitude at night and struck the targets.

And at dawn on May 8, a daring combat airborne operation began.


"Everyone understood that this was a complex operation and no one could back down," recalls the commander of a special forces unit of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine with the call sign "Shaman".

Groups of military intelligence special forces and fighters from the SBU's Alpha group flew out to storm the island on several helicopters with open ramps. They had previously trained at an airfield in Odesa Oblast.

Тренування операції висадки на Зміїний
Training for the landing operation on Zmiiny

"When we were flying to Snake, it was 37 kilometers from the nearest point," explains Yevhen Solovyov, a military pilot and Hero of Ukraine. "In the absence of wind, the helicopter can be heard eight to ten kilometers away. That is, they will hear us in advance... Our eight helicopters were in plain sight."

On approaching the island, the helicopters with the troops opened fire with air-to-air missiles to suppress possible enemy firing points. In addition to missiles, the island was also hit with machine guns. However, not a single shot was fired at the helicopters as they approached the island. The enemy air defense was already suppressed.

As soon as the helicopters touched down on the landing sites, Ukrainian troops poured out of the open ramp.

Висадка на Зміїному 8 травня
Landing at Zmiino on May 8

"Our task was to attack this building, to spread out," says the commander of the HUR's special forces group with the call sign "Skin." "My group went to the left, and the Neptune group went to the right. "The Alphas went to clear the building. Our island was divided along the perimeters".

Although Snake Island is a rocky island, there are few reliable hiding places. The soldiers had to constantly monitor the rear, even though there were supposed to be no enemies there.

Ukrainian boats also appeared near the island, but were soon forced to withdraw. The enemy shooting at them became more intense.

The Special Forces slowly began to move forward through the border outpost and lighthouse. Here, the Russians abandoned a smashed command and control vehicle and entrenched themselves on the opposite side of the island from the landing.

"It was quite an epic battle," says intel officer "Skin".

The hottest firefights broke out in the area of the white pillar of the unfinished windmill. The Russians put up a desperate fight, firing intensely, but their fire was actively suppressed by heavy infantry weapons and grenade launchers.

Бойові дії на Зміїному
Combat operations on Zmiino
Бойові дії на Зміїному
Combat operations on Zmiino

This landing attempt was a reconnaissance battle. The Russians suffered significant losses, but Ukrainian Special Forces did not get away without them either.

Українські спецпризначенці переміщують пораненого бійця
Ukrainian special forces move a wounded soldier

The command decided to end this assault operation, evacuate the wounded and dead and continue to destroy the Russians from afar. Before leaving, they took a lot of useful enemy equipment as trophies.

That was the first time they managed to hang the Ukrainian flag on Snake Island under fire.

Українським бійцям вдалося підняти прапор України під час операції
Ukrainian fighters managed to raise the flag of Ukraine during the operation

"The landing and attack were a shock for the enemy. They were not expecting it, and we killed them alright," says "Shaman". During the operation to storm Snake Island, all helicopters returned to their bases surprisingly unharmed.

But they did lose one boat and a total of 15 soldiers. In particular, Colonel Ihor Bedzay, the deputy commander of the Navy for aviation, was killed. His Mi-14 naval helicopter with the crew was shot down by an enemy Su-30 fighter jet. It happened not near the island itself, but on the coast of Odesa Oblast at the mouth of the Danube.

Ігор Бедзай
Ihor Bedzai


After that, the coastal troops of the Navy were tasked with preventing further logistical support for Snake Island.

"They managed it," says Oleksiy Neyizhpapa, the Navy commander, "At the same time, fire from the shore began. The enemy abandoned the task of holding the island."

On June 20, the Ukrainian Armed Forces launched a missile attack on the so-called "Boyko Towers".

"The Russians placed their electronic warfare stations on them, that is, they used them as protection for their warships," explains Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov.

On June 27, the Ukrainian Armed Forces conducted more than 10 precision strikes on the island. On June 30, Ukrainian missile and artillery units continued to strike throughout the night. After that, the Russians completely abandoned the island.

"This is a very important operation for Ukraine," Budanov said. "Without regaining control of Snake Island, any shipping from Ukrainian ports would be impossible... They would have destroyed us economically."

On July 7, several Ukrainian assault teams completed the final operation to land on the island and raised the Ukrainian flag.