Online investigators use satellite images to count deaths in Ukraine

Published on: 04/18/2022 – 17:24Modified on: 04/19/2022 – 18:11 Thousands of Ukrainian civilians have been killed in fighting and shelling since the start of the Russian offensive on February 24. To cope with these excess deaths, citizens and local authorities have resorted to mass graves and makeshift cemeteries to bury their dead. Satellite images and amateur videos document the appearance of new graves, thus making it possible to quantify the heavy human toll of the war. Warning: this article contains images and descriptions that may shock some readers. The toll of civilian casualties since the start of the war in Ukraine is difficult to establish. As of April 15, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had recorded 4,633 civilian victims, of whom 1,982 died. However, the agency says the actual figures are likely much higher, as casualty tolls in several areas plagued by heavy fighting have yet to be released. Chernihiv. Dozens, (possibly over 100) bodies of Ukrainian civilians in freshly marked grave. The Ukrainians had to hastily bury the newly found dead after the Russian retreat. #Ukraine #UkraineWar— Battle Leaks Independent (@leaks_battle) April 10, 2022 In a video posted April 11, 2022, newly dug graves to bury people who died in Chernihiv during the war can be seen in Ukraine. They are marked by small wooden signs bearing the names of the victims. During an interview with France 24 on April 15, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba claimed that Russian soldiers were using mobile crematoriums, making it more difficult to count the victims. According to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, 2,700 civilian deaths had been medically confirmed and officially confirmed as of April 15. To overcome the lack of information on the human toll of the war, online investigators are trying to document the deaths civilians using visuals, such as satellite images of cemeteries or amateur images of mass graves. satellite to identify cemeteries in Ukraine, and follow their evolution since the beginning of the military offensive in February. By comparing several satellite images of a cemetery in the city of Kherson, currently under Russian occupation, the NGO showed that several rows of graves had been added between February 28 and April 15: Numerous grave lines added in each satellite image to this site in the Russian-occupied city of Kherson (Херсон) in Ukraine’s south. This timelapse of @Planet imagery shows grave lines added between 28 Feb & 15 April. Location: 46.669554, 32.530406.— Center for Information Resilience (@Cen4infoRes) April 15, 2022 These six satellite images, provided by the American company Planet, were taken between February 28 and April 15, 2022 in Kherson, Ukraine. They show that the number of graves in the cemetery has increased considerably. According to Nathan Ruser, a researcher at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), 824 new graves were dug in this Kherson cemetery between February 28 and April 2. To arrive at this result, he consulted old satellite images dating from 2021, having a higher resolution, in order to count the number of graves that are in each row of the cemetery. He then multiplied this figure by the number of rows added since the start of the war in Ukraine. In images from April 2022, it can be seen that approximately 300 of these new graves have been filled in, indicating that someone was buried there. The other graves were at that time still empty. Kherson was the first city occupied by Russian forces. Ukrainian authorities claim that at least 300 soldiers and civilians died in the fighting preceding the capture of the city. Although it is currently impossible to verify this toll, satellite images of the cemeteries nevertheless give an indication of the scale of the victims. The CIR has also identified hastily built makeshift cemeteries near Chernihiv, a town which came under heavy bombardment for several weeks after the Russian invasion. Residents buried their dead in improvised cemeteries in the Yaliyvshchyna forest, according to an investigation by the NGO. 🚨New Investigation: Our Eyes on Russia team have verified the presence of a series of mass graves in the Yalivshchyna forest near Chernihiv.1) Link below and THREAD👇— Center for Information Resilience (@Cen4infoRes ) April 10, 2022 CIR investigators used photos published in the media to trace the location of three cemeteries. Looking at satellite images of these three places, they noticed that they had recently been deforested to make way for the construction of mass graves after the start of the war in Ukraine. Videos shared on social media show people descending from coffins in one of these mass graves: A mass-grave of civilians who were killed by Russians in Chernihiv— Mykhailo Golub (@golub) March 6, 2022 This video, posted March 6, 2022, shows a mass grave with about ten people in Chernihiv in Ukraine. Amateur images also make it possible to quantify the number of graves. According to the CIR, 381 were dug at these three sites between February 24 and March 6, 2022. Online investigators are not the only ones using satellite imagery to better estimate the death toll from the war in Ukraine. The United Nations says it used the satellite images to identify a mass grave where 200 people are believed to be buried in Mariupol, a strategic port city heavily bombarded by Russian armed forces.