Kyrylo Budanov, head of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine (HUR), said Kyiv has also been purchasing satellite imagery from commercial sources to coordinate strikes on military targets, echoing recent reports of Moscow doing the same to plan strikes against Ukraine.

“All countries are buying, including us. This is a purely commercial service. We have used commercial pictures before,” Budanov told Ukrainian news outlet Suspilne.

A recent report by The Atlantic established a high likelihood of Moscow acquiring satellite imagery from Western firms to coordinate and verify strikes on Ukraine.

The report, citing unnamed Ukrainian officials, named multiple instances where satellite imagery of certain areas was requested before and after the strike:

  • Investigations after a strike on a military airfield in Myrhorod in the Poltava region in April 2022 found that the US satellite company had previously received nine separate requests for coverage of the area and a week after the attack another demand for imagery of the same object.
  • There was a similar story when Russia fired six cruise missiles at the Lviv State Aircraft Repair Plant in March 2022.
  • Then, in January this year, fresh material covering Ukraine’s capital was purchased after which there was an attack on the city and surrounding area using more than 40 cruise and ballistic missiles.

Moscow acquired the imagery through third-party contacts in friendly nations or organizations to circumvent sanctions as it is suspected of doing to acquire components to manufacture modern weapons.

The Atlantic’s investigation established that there is likely little to no oversight in acquiring satellite imagery through resellers, where a reporter from the media organization successfully acquired coverage of Zaporizhzhia, a city close to the front line, through resellers within a few minutes of his request by merely providing his name and credit card information.

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