Moscow likely using US satellite imagery for missile strikes on Ukraine — report

Satellite images
Satellite images

When conducting air strikes against Ukraine, Russia may be relying on satellite photos provided by U.S. companies, The Atlantic reported on March 18, citing an unnamed Ukrainian defense official.

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According to the source, commercial satellites take images of a specific site in Ukraine, and days or weeks later, Russian missiles hit the location. At times, another satellite then captures additional images, possibly to assess the damage.

The source said that a review of logs of customers requesting images of certain strategic assets in Ukraine suggests a certain pattern. For instance, they told the journalists that in the week leading up to April 2, 2022, U.S. orbital imaging companies processed a request for photos of a remote airstrip near Myrhorod, Poltava Oblast, at least nine times. On April 2, the airstrip was hit by Russian missiles, and the following week, someone requested images of the airstrip again.

Just before March 26, 2022, someone ordered a satellite to survey a Lviv factory used for military armor production, which was subsequently attacked.

More recently, in late January 2024, a commercial satellite company was tasked to take fresh images of Kyiv right before the city suffered a major missile attack.

“The number of coincidences, where the images are followed by strikes, is too high to be random,” the official said.

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Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Kateryna Chernohorenko suggested that Russia “purchases satellite images through intermediaries” that do business with Western satellite firms.

The article also mentions that Maxar and Planet, two of the largest commercial providers of satellite images in the United States, captured photos of Ukrainian sites that were later targeted by Russian missiles.

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Although the companies maintain they carefully vet their clients and have not cooperated with Russia since the start of the war in February 2022, Andrey Liscovich, head of a U.S. nonprofit providing nonlethal assistance to Ukraine, is skeptical about the companies’ claims of controlling the end-use of their satellite images.

“They lack the necessary resources to adequately screen the final recipients of their products,” Liskovych said.

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Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine