NATO released satellite images on Thursday of what it said were Russian artillery, vehicles and troops in and around eastern Ukraine, just as Ukrainian officials said Russian troops in armored vehicles captured the Ukrainian town of Novoazovsk, along its southeastern coastline.
The satellite photos appear to show Russian vehicles and troops in numerous locations. NATO officials said that the first image below shows a convoy with self-propelled artillery in the area of Krasnodon, Ukraine, inside territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists on Aug. 21. The Ukrainian military has not moved this far inside separatist-controlled territory, so NATO officials said they are confident the equipment is Russian:
This second image shows Russian artillery units setting up positions in Krasnodon, NATO officials said. Vehicles believed to be carrying ammunition and supplies are alongside them.
“This configuration is exactly how trained military professionals would arrange their assets on the ground, indicating that these are not unskilled amateurs, but Russian soldiers,” NATO officials said.
The image below shows shows a staging area for military equipment on the Russian side of the border, near Rostov-on-Don, NATO said. It appears to be about 31 miles from the border crossing in Dovzhansky, Ukraine.
The photo below, to the left, was taken June 19, and shows the area mostly empty. The photo to the right was taken Aug. 20, and shows Russian tanks, armored personnel carriers, trucks and tents, NATO officials said. Russia is said to have set up similar encampments on other areas of the border:
NATO says this next photo, taken July 23, appears to show six Russian 153mm artillery guns in Russian near Kuybyshevo. It’s four miles south of the Ukrainian border, within range of dropping shells over the border. The guns are pointed north, toward Ukraine, NATO says.
NATO says this last photo, below, shows a wider view of the guns in the previous image. The firing positions of the artillery pieces are circled in red, and indicate “it would be impossible NOT to fire into Ukrainian territory,” NATO says.
The photos were taken by a company called DigitalGlobe. Based in Longmont, Colo., they take high-resolution satellite photos across the world.
The photos were released after days of increasing tension between the two countries. On Tuesday, Ukrainian forces said they had captured 10 Russian paratroopers in the Donetsk region of Ukraine. Ukraine also released video of what they said was a Russian tank in Novoazovsk, the coastal town officials in Kiev said Russian troops had captured:
Moscow will consider the activity of NATO forces near Russia’s borders in its own military planning, Russia’s envoy to NATO told the Interfax news agency Thursday.
“Obviously, we will take into consideration the configuration and activity of the NATO forces at the Russian borders in our military planning, and will take all that is necessary to reliably provide security and to ensure safety against any threats,” envoy Alexander Grushko told Interfax.
As this Washington Post map shows, Russian-backed separatists do not control as much territory in eastern Ukraine as they did in June. But they still have strong influence across the region, and control of several key areas, including the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which U.S. officials say was shot down by a surface-to-air missile July 17.