Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine, which began in 2022, continued throughout 2023. The military monitored what was happening using orbital “eyes”. Some of these satellites images were leaked to the media, and today we are publishing a selection of the most important things they saw
Even before 2023 began, it had become evident that the Russians were seriously preparing to defend the occupied territories. New trenches and other defensive structures have been spotted by Earth-orbiting vehicles since late fall of last year.
In addition, before the New Year, Ukraine began to strike at Russian military facilities. Some of them were located very far from the border with Ukraine, such as the strategic bomber base in Engels.
The new year, 2023, began with fireworks. A missile strike at exactly 00:00 on January 1 destroyed the occupiers’ base, which was located on the territory of a technical school in occupied Makiivka. The number of Russian soldiers killed then reached several dozen.
However, at the beginning of 2023, the main attention was focused on cities Bakhmut and Soledar, which were fiercely attacked by Russians. An example of this is the images of the village of Opytne, which was already heavily damaged at that time.
Later, the images by Maxar also showed Soledar. The images captured by the device in orbit clearly show multi-storey buildings that have turned into ruins as a result of Russian troops’ assaults.
In early spring, the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine (GUR) summarized the results of six months of using the ICEYE SAR satellite. They reported on 7321 objects of enemy military or special equipment detected with its help.
In the spring, the battle for Bakhmut also entered a new phase. Russian troops managed to occupy the cities territory after many months of assaults, where most of the buildings turned into ruins. This can be seen on satellite images taken in May.
In May 2023, Google Maps updated its online maps for some Ukrainian cities. This had not been done before due to information security concerns. In particular, satellite images showed what Mariupol looks like after the city has been “liberated” by the Russians.
Another hot topic in the spring of 2023 was military construction in Belarus. They were preparing either to repel an attack from Ukraine or to launch an offensive, and for this purpose they built the so called Khrenin Line.
The summer of the war in 2023 began with a large-scale man-made disaster. For reasons that are still unclear, the Russians blew up the dam of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant. This caused a large-scale flood and the destruction of settlements in the Kherson region. All of this was monitored by private company satellites extremely quickly.
A little later, it became clear that the dam was completely destroyed and that the Kakhovka reservoir it was “holding” would soon disappear completely. Experts are still arguing about long-time consequences of this event, but the satellite images of what is left are impressive.
At the same time, the Russians began to prepare for hostilities in the south. This is evidenced by the increase in the number of helicopters at the airfield in Brerdiansk, which was captured by satellite.
In addition to all these events, another Google Maps update took place in June 2023. As a result we’re now able to assess the extent of the destruction in Kharkiv, which had long been located directly on the contact line.
It soon became clear that Russia might not stop with the destruction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant. In June 2023, it flooded fields near Tokmak in Zaporizhzhia region.
Another important topic of the summer of 2023 was the attempt by the leader of Russian mercenaries, Yevgeny Prigozhin, to seize power in Russia. Satellites failed to capture the coup itself. But its consequences, including the appearance of the Wagner group’s camps in Belarus, were captured.
Eventually, the Wagner leader himself became an object of observation by commercial satellites. More precisely, they captured the wreckage of his plane, which crashed as a result of an explosion on board or being shot down by an anti-aircraft missile.
In the middle of the summer, everyone feared that Russia would repeat with the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) what it had done with the hydroelectric power plant. Strange objects were even noticed on the roof of one of the buildings, which were suspected to be explosives.
On July 17, Ukraine struck at the Crimean bridge, and the aftermath is clearly visible on satellite images.
In August, images of a military storage facility hidden in Russian Siberia were released. They showed a significant decrease in the amount of Soviet-era equipment stored there. This is an indication that the aggressor state is experiencing a shortage of tanks.
The fall of 2023 began with the Armed Forces’ strikes on the occupiers’ bases. On September 1, images of the results of the damage to equipment at the airfield near Pskov appeared.
But this was not the end of the story, it was just the beginning. On September 12, the amphibious assault ship Minsk and the submarine Rostov-on-Don were disabled in the docks of Sevastopol.
On September 13, the S-400 Triumph air defense system was destroyed in the same Crimea.
On September 20, a command post of the Russian army was destroyed in Crimea
The results of these actions were not long in coming. As early as October, satellite images showed that Russia had withdrawn most of its ships from Crimea to Novorossiysk on the Caucasus coast.
Meanwhile, the destruction of enemy equipment continued. In October, the helicopters based in Berdiansk were badly burned after the Ukrainian Armed Forces attacked them with ATACMS missiles.
Almost simultaneously, the airfield near Luhansk was attacked.
Just before the New Year, the Ukrainian Armed Forces gave Ukrainians another gift that was seen even from orbit. The Novocherkassk landing ship exploded and sank in a very beautiful way after another attack.