It was unclear if the evacuation meant a change in Moscow’s designs on Odesa. Odesa is Ukraine’s biggest port, crucial for shipping grain to Africa, the Middle East and other parts of the world, and is also the headquarters of the country’s navy.
The Kremlin portrayed the pullout from Snake Island as a “goodwill gesture.” Ukraine’s military said the Russians fled in two small speedboats following a barrage of Ukrainian artillery and missile strikes. The exact number of troops was not disclosed.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said the withdrawal was intended to demonstrate that Moscow isn’t hampering U.N. efforts to establish a humanitarian corridor for exporting agricultural products from Ukraine.
Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of blockading Ukrainian ports to prevent exports of grain, contributing to a global food crisis. Russia has denied the accusations and said that Ukraine needs to remove mines from the Black Sea to allow safe navigation.
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