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Russia has withdrawn its forces from Snake Island, a strategic outpost in the Black Sea, in what the defense ministry described as a “gesture of goodwill” to help restore Ukrainian grain shipments.

The ministry said on Thursday that its troops had “finished fulfilling their tasks” and “demonstrated to the world community that Russia is not blocking the UN’s efforts to organize a humanitarian corridor to export agricultural goods from Ukraine”.

Kyiv rejected this, and said it had driven Russian forces from Snake Island with an artillery bombardment, hailing the withdrawal as a victory.

Andriy Yermak, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, posted a picture on Twitter of plumes of smoke billowing from the island. “KA-BOOM! No Russian troops on the Snake Island any more. Our armed forces did a great job,” the post read.

Little more than an outcrop of rock, the 0.2 square kilometer island received global attention in the early days of Moscow’s invasion when a Russian cruiser demanded the Ukrainian contingent based there surrender, only to receive the reply: “Russian warship, go fuck yourself!”

The response became Ukraine’s rallying cry and was immortalized on a stamp showing a trooper giving a Russian ship the middle finger.

Moscow said its withdrawal would prevent Kyiv from speculating “on the coming food crisis by saying it cannot transport grain because of Russia’s total control of the north-western part of the Black Sea”.

However, Kyiv said UN-led talks have stalled because Moscow was intent on using them to cement its dominance of the Black Sea, which it is using for missile strikes on the Ukrainian mainland.

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