Espreso. Global

Russia may use private satellite data to strike Ukraine

19 March, 2024 Tuesday
10:50

Russia may use satellite imagery provided by US private companies to launch cruise missile strikes against Ukraine

The Atlantic writes about this with reference to a Ukrainian military source.

The source said that Russia strikes a particular object in Ukraine after satellites take pictures of that object. Sometimes satellite images appear after the attack, which can be used to judge the consequences.

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

The Atlantic has studied archived satellite images from Ukraine with dates and coordinates and claims to have "noticed suggestive patterns." Thus, the article says, satellite images were requested shortly before the strikes on Lviv and the airfield near Myrhorod in the spring of 2022, as well as before the shelling of Kyiv in late January 2024. The publication claims that there are "hundreds of such cases."

Ukraine's Deputy Defense Minister Kateryna Chornohorenko told The Atlantic that American satellite companies support Ukraine. However, according to her, the ministry's experts suspect that Russia "purchases satellite imagery through third-party companies" and these photos "could be used in armed aggression against Ukraine."

The Atlantic writes that the images of the Ukrainian objects that came under fire were taken by Maxar and Planet, two of the largest American companies engaged in commercial satellite imaging. Representatives of the companies emphasized that they carefully check their clients and comply with US law, which has prohibited cooperation with Russia since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Maxar refused to comment on specific cases of suspicious orders for shooting in Ukraine, saying that it "ceased all business with Russian entities, including resellers, in early March 2022." Planet said that it provides images to responsible customers, including governments, aid organizations and the media, and avoids possible misuse of the photos.

The Atlantic's Ukrainian source said that he would "like to see these images moderated," for example, by having companies disclose to the Ukrainian military what orders they have received before the images are taken. According to him, companies should also "look very carefully at the records of who has been buying these images" and possibly involve special services "in tracking companies suspected of funneling the images to Moscow".

Deputy Defense Minister Chornogorenko told reporters that the Ukrainian government will propose a mechanism to regulate the distribution of satellite images.

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