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Latest Ukraine Satellite Images Reveal Devastation of Russian Invasion

by Deepak Mirza
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At the end of April, Google partially updated its map of Ukraine. Even though the latest images probably date from March 2022, the scale of destruction in the first weeks of Russia’s invasion is clear.

The latest map lays bare the aftermath of the historic battles for Kyiv, and shows the destroyed iconic cargo plane Mriya at Hostomel Airport. It also shows a bridge in Irpin and a dam in Kozarovychi Village that Ukrainian forces had to blow up to stop the Russian offensive on Kyiv last year. Satellite cameras have also captured Bakhmut fields peppered with shell holes and people standing in line for humanitarian aid in the doomed port city of Mariupol.   

POLITICO gathered satellite pictures from nine locations in Ukraine to show what they looked like before and after Russia invaded.

Hostomel airport, Kyiv region

Hostomel Airport is an international cargo airport located near the northwest of Kyiv. It is used to be known as the home airport for Mriya, the biggest cargo aircraft in the world, a great point of pride to Ukrainians. From here, Mriya used to take off on its humanitarian missions.

On February 24, a few hours after President Vladimir Putin announced the start of a full-scale invasion, Russian forces launched an air assault, aiming to capture Hostomel. After several days of intense battles, Ukrainian forces repelled Russia’s paratroopers and helicopter formations. Mriya, however, was destroyed. If the Russians had succeeded in capturing the airport, they would probably have successfully occupied Kyiv, Kyrylo Budanov, head of Ukraine’s military intelligence directorate said in an interview with journalist Dmytro Komarov.

Theater in Mariupol, Donetsk region

Mariupol used to be a lively city of 400,000 people that had it all: heavy industry, an international port and a vibrant cultural life. Mariupol Drama Theater was one of its centers. During the siege of Mariupol, the Drama Theater became a shelter for Mariupol residents who lost their homes during the Russian bombardment.  Locals thought a sign saying “Children” painted on a sidewalk near the theater would save it from bombing. It didn’t.   

On March 16, a Russian jet dropped a bomb on the theater, where some 300 people were hiding. Russia first admitted it bombed Mariupol theater, but then denied it, even though international investigators ruled the bombing was a war crime by Russian forces. Instead of allowing investigators to visit the scene Russia demolished the remains of the Mariupol Drama Theater in December last year. But Google Maps still shows what it looked like, not so long after the strike.

Kozarovychy Dam, Kyiv region

Villages to the northwest of Kyiv have witnessed several decisive battles. Even though the Russians could not send more paratroopers by air after they lost the battle for Hostomel airport, Ukrainian forces still needed to do anything they could to prevent Russian forces streaming into Kyiv from Belarus.

To impede the transit of Russian vehicles and forces to the right bank of the Irpin River, the Ukrainian forces blew up the bridge in Demydiv village and the protective dam of the Kyiv Water Reservoir between Kozarovychi and Lyutizh villages. The massive rush of floodwater stopped the Russian forces and made it impossible for them to bring their tanks and artillery closer to Kyiv.  However, while the water helped the Ukrainian army, it flooded the local villages and damaged homes.

Bridge in Irpin, Kyiv region

In the first two months of the invasion, the Russians made Kyiv their primary target, but the capital stood firm.

Kyiv’s once homely suburbs of Irpin and Bucha paid dearly, though. Photos of Irpin residents standing under the destroyed bridge across the Irpin River, waiting for evacuation, were published all over the world. On February 25 last year, Ukrainian soldiers had to blow up the only bridge that connected Irpin and Kyiv to block Russians from taking Kyiv. Ukraine is now working on rebuilding the bridge.

Mall in Mariupol, Donetsk region

Metro Cash and Carry department store on the outskirts of Mariupol, once a flourishing Ukrainian port city on the Sea of Azov, used to be a hot spot for weekly shopping. It was looted during the siege of Mariupol, as residents, blockaded by Russian forces attacking from the east, west, south and north, needed food and water. After the Russians occupied Mariupol in May 2022, they started using Metro’s premises as a point to distribute humanitarian aid to the starving locals, forcing people to wait in long lines.

Cemetery in Stary Krym village, Donetsk region

Satellite pictures of Starokrymske Cemetery in the village of Stary Krym, near Russian-occupied Mariupol, might be the only visible evidence of the huge number of victims of the Russian siege of Mariupol as kilometers of new graves appeared in a short time after the full-scale invasion and occupation began. The first trenches on the territory of the cemetery appeared on March 24, 2022 — only days after the village was occupied by the Russian military. On the satellite image, you can see that they were 60-70 meters long.

Fields near Bakhmut, Donetsk region

Bakhmut, an industrial town in the eastern Donetsk region, remains the scene of vicious battles. Over nine months of slaughter, Russian forces have launched near-suicidal wave attacks and the Kremlin’s forces now control most of the town. The Ukrainian army, however, is still fighting on in the western part. Even though the latest version of the map doesn’t show the scale of destruction in Bakhmut now, the image of fields entirely pock-marked with shell holes reveals the savagery of the battle.

Moshchun village, Kyiv region

A tiny village only some 30 kilometers northwest of Kyiv, Moshchun used to be a place for weekend retreats for Kyivans. Located on the bank of the Irpin River and surrounded by pine trees, Moshchun was turned almost to ruins by heavy battles for Kyiv. Here the Ukrainian army destroyed elite Russian troops in March 2022. After the Russians failed to storm Kyiv from Hostomel and Irpin, they chose Moshchun as the easiest route, Radio Liberty reported. On March 5, Russian artillery units started shelling Moshchun heavily. 

Ukraine’s 72 brigade, territorial forces, and some international fighters were outnumbered by Russia’s elite troops, who managed to cross the Irpin River near Moshchun. Dozens of Russian paratroopers from the elite Kostroma, and Tula divisions, fought Ukrainian forces in heavy street fights in Moshchun. New groups of enemy soldiers were approaching across pontoon bridges. The second blast on the dam in Kozarovychi released even more water and the river finally cut the Russians in Moshchun off from the rest of their comrades, giving the Ukrainians an opportunity to overpower their adversaries. On March 19, the Russians finally fled Moshchun.

Source : POLITICO

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