Following reports on May 8 that Ukrainian fighters had begun to launch strikes on Russian forces based on the strategically located Snake Island 50km off Ukraine’s southern coast, the Russian Defence Ministry reported that a two day battle for control of the island had concluded and seen an assault ordered by Kiev successfully repelled. According to Russian sources, British and American military advisers were deeply involved in planning the operation, which was carried out with their “direct participation,” although the result of the failed attack were the deaths of over 50 Ukrainian personnel. With two of Ukraine’s remaining Su-27 fighters spearheading the assault, one was shot down alongside three Su-24 strike fighters, an Mi-24 attack helicopter and three Mi-8 transports loaded with assault troops. 29 drones, including eight Bayraktar TB-2 attack platform, were also shot down. An attempted night landing on May 8 also saw three Centaur Class attack boats sunk. Ukrainian drones were reported by government sources in Kiev to have been successful in destroying a Russian Tor air defence system and three Russian boats, while a Su-27 fighter was able to drop some unguided bombs.
With Ukraine’s aerial warfare capabilities continuing to be seriously depleted, albeit at a much slower rate than initially anticipated when the Russian-Ukrainian War first broke out on February 24, the loss of eight manned aircraft including four heavyweight fighters represents a significant setback if confirmed. While the country’s mass infantry formations continue to receive very large quantities of handheld weapons, armoured vehicles and artillery, as well as various drones from NATO member states, fighters, helicopters and naval assets, particularly higher end Su-24s and Su-27s which are not used elsewhere in Europe, will be particularly difficult to replenish. Furthermore, the possibility remains significant that the airborne infantry assaulting Snake Island by helicopter had an elite status within the Ukrainian Military which makes the loss of three Mi-8s full of them a potentially very heavy loss. With the tide of the Russian-Ukrainian War remaining highly uncertain, as are Russia’s final objectives, the failed Ukrainian offensive could indicate that ground already captured by Russian forces will be difficult for Ukraine to regain even if it can deny the Russian Army the ability to advance further on land.