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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Comments ( 1)
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As of Oct. 2023, Russia has a total of 220 satellites in orbit, which is only about 2.5 percent of the global total of nearly 9,000 operational satellites.

There are presently 4,000 US based Starlink satellites in orbit and UK firm OneWeb has about 600 operational satellites. 

In 2023 Russia state TV interviewed chief of Russian space operations Yuri Borisov, was asked about russia's intent to build an additional 264-satellite constellation called "Sphere". 

According to Borisov"Today all satellite manufacturing companies of our industry are capable of building about 40 satellites per year."

 So yes, russia is currently relying on satellite imaging taken from other countries. 

Probably difficult to stop them from buying imager through sanction busters, but if one knew their source, it would an interesting cyberhack for allies to upload fakes of older or modified imagery of expected targets that were no longer active. Optionally 'fake the view from above' by putting skilled mural painters to work repainting the roofs / surrounding grounds of key infrastructure to look like missile craters.

I like the thought of russia wasting expensive missiles on no longer active targets or mobile targets that had since moved.... providing impact areas were in no longer populated or otherwise valuable.

Even better would be if Russian target coordinates could somehow be substituted for Ukraine ones.

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@John, a bit like the Brits built fires on deserted hills and farmland to make German pilots think they were over cities, and then drop their bombs on deserted land in WW2. And don’t worry, they are already bombing their own cities.