The War in Ukraine: Forty Days of Attacks Seen by Satellite: The Bombardment That Brings Mariupol to Its Knees Listen to this article

Mariupol is an important point on the Russian offensive map. It lies between the Crimean peninsula, controlled by Russia since 2014, and the breakaway region of the Donbass, where Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced that he will focus his invasion efforts from now on. Mariupol is the “land bridge” between the two zones, that is, the connection between these different areas. And, in addition, it has a port on the Azov Sea.

Through six satellite images you can see the impact of the invasion on this city, where 5,000 deaths have been recorded in just one month as a result of the attacks, according to local authorities,

January 8 | Hot spots in the capital of steel

A month and a half before the invasion, the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 and NASA’s Landsat satellites showed Mariupol as it was in peacetime: a port city with a metallurgical industry that earned it the nickname of Ukraine’s steel capital. The sensors in these devices make it possible to capture the sources of heat in the city that are usually associated with fires or industries whose activity emits visible heat, for example, in chimneys.


heat source

of industrial activity

metallurgical factory

by Azovastli

hot spot

From

industrial activity

metallurgical factory

by Azovastali

In the image, these points can be seen on a daily basis in blast furnaces located to the north and at the extensive Azovstal factory on the shores of the Azov Sea, while nothing is to be found in residential areas. Since the start of the war, the hotspots have become a diary of the conflict’s bombings, explosions and fires.

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9 March | Siege and Bombardment

The first steps of the Russian troops testified to their progress towards Mariupol from different directions. according to him Institute for the Study of War (ISW), on 26 February, the Kremlin army had already taken the neighboring city of Bardyansk to the west, and the towns of Pyshevik and Pavlopol to the east, on their way to the Donbass. During this entire month, satellite measurements were hampered by intense cloud cover over the region.


first hot spot fruit

from war

Russia is coming from the east,

livoberezny begin to

get attack

hospital attack

mother and child

on March 9,

first hot spot fruit

from war

Russian soldiers’ point of view

For East and District

livoberezny begin to

get attack

hospital attack

mother and child

In early March, the first cleanup clarified the siege of the city and directed bombings on critical infrastructure and residential areas intensified. The ISW interpreted this strategy as an attempt to destroy the city or force its inhabitants to surrender. On the 9th, during the armistice, which was to facilitate evacuation in the humanitarian corridors agreed by Kyiv and Moscow, bombs hit a mother-child hospital. Three people, including a child, died in the attack.

A woman among the ruins of a hospital. Yevgeny Maloletka.

A toilet inside the building. Yevgeny Maloletka.

14 March | cruelty without progress

With the city besieged, the rapid Russian progress of the previous weeks gave way to tense gaps imposed by both sides’ strenuous efforts in attacking and defending the port city. Russian troops made small gains on the ground. One of them was the seizure of the Azovstal factory, which was hit by heavy bombing four days later. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov claimed on March 14 that 5,000 of his soldiers were fighting near Mariupol.

An analysis of satellite images from the same date published by UNOSAT estimated that 773 buildings were damaged during the conflict in the Livoberezhnye and Zovtnevy districts. These include eight colleges and four hospitals.


Landsat 8 captures an airplane’s contrail and its shadow. This has been interpreted as a mark of a possible bombing.

Russian attacks also reach west of the city.

On March 14, Landsat 8 captured an airplane’s umbilical cord and its shadow. Some experts have interpreted it as a possible bombing mark.

Russian attacks also reach west of the city.

Missiles were launched (highlighted in yellow) against the Azovstal facility on 18 March.
azov.org.ua

March 19 | The destruction of the Mariupol Theater

In the picture of March 19, industrial activities in the city have come to a complete standstill. The greatest concentration of heat sources was then located in the center, where the Mariupol Theater stood three days earlier. The bombing of this building resulted in the death of about 300 people who were taking shelter inside, according to local authorities,

According to the ISW, on 18 March Russian troops were ten kilometers from the center and the battleship crossing the Bosphorus towards the Black Sea was a sign of the proximity of an amphibious operation designed to completely encircle the city. ,


No activity observed in industrial complexes

Russian attacks also reach west of the city.

No activity observed in industrial complexes

Russian attacks also reach west of the city.


View of the Mariupol Theater (Ukraine).  On March 19 (left) and March 14.

View of the theater in Mariupol (Ukraine) on March 19 (left) and March 14. AFP.

March 21 and 22 | slow progress, constant bombardment

The superimposed images of March 20 and 21 show the intensity of combat activity, which, however, did not translate into significant advances by Russian troops on the ground. One thing to note is the mark of deflation: Areas where satellites detect heat sources appear darkened by fire the next day.

Images published on social networks then placed Chechen troops in the vicinity of the Azovstal industrial complex, and the ISW noted that Putin’s forces were strengthening their artillery positions northeast of Mariupol.


Russian troops strengthened their artillery positions

Russian troops strengthened their artillery positions

Aerial view of Mariupol on March 23

March 29 | imminent fall

The change in strategy announced by Russia on March 25, a day after troops entered the center of Mariupol, did not reduce the intensity of the attacks on the city. Over the past week, the Russian military has continued its progress, described by the ISW as “slow and perhaps painful”.

According to the latest estimates from local authorities, 140,000 residents had left the city before the siege began and another 150,000 were later, leaving some 170,000 people without access to food, water, electricity, heating or care. . On 24 March, a Ukrainian attack complicated the arrival of enemy reinforcements by sinking two Russian ships, which were in the neighboring city of Burdiansk. Despite local resistance, according to the mayor’s office, the collapse of Mariupol was considered imminent for several days and 90% of its buildings were damaged.


On March 24, Russian troops entered the city center

On March 24, Russian troops entered the city center

A teacher and a metalworker cook at the basement door on March 30. Alexander Ermochenko (Reuters).

A pro-Russian soldier walks through the ruins of a residential building on March 30. Alexander Ermochenko (Reuters).

A woman cycles past the remains of a burnt bus on March 29.Alexey Alexandrov (AP).

A pro-Russian convoy on the road towards Mariupol on March 28. Alexander Ermochenko (Reuters).

modus operandi:

Sensors on the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 and NASA’s Landsat 8 satellites ‘see’ beyond the spectral band seen by the human eye. Thanks to these systems, an image that we have from an airplane window is expanded with additional spectral bands that allow measurements such as the vitality of vegetation or, in this case, what is visible on the ground. heat sources can be obtained.

In this analysis, images showing the true color of the area are combined with hot spots identified by a combination of near-infrared and short-wave spectral ranges.

Source:

Sentinel-2 (European Space Agency), Landsat 8 (NASA), Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Center for Information Resilience (Cen4InfoRes)

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