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Russia Shelled Ukraine in August 2014. Satellite Images of 539 Craters Analyzed

The report on the shelling from the territory of the Russian Federation was prepared by the commander of the troop of radiochemical and bacteriological reconnaissance of 79th Airmobile Brigade lieutenant Victor Mikhailyuk [1] in collaboration with Andriy Karbivnychy [2]i. The investigation is dedicated to the second anniversary of the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from the encirclement in the area close to Russian border in Donbas. We studied satellite map imagery of 539 shelling craters and determined the outgoing directions and the weapons used to attack Ukrainian forces from the territory of the Russian Federation. Detailed summary of the investigation and the conclusions are at the end of the article.

In the summer of 2014, there were fierce battles in the east of Ukraine in an attempt to regain control over the state border. Starting from July 2014, Ukrainian units were coming under heavy fire from the territory of the Russian Federation. In July the pro-Russian militants supported by the Russian artillery managed to surround the units Ukrainian Army and border guards. It was two years ago, when this withdrawal from the encirclement took place.
Recently we summarized memories of the participants of those events. Lieutenant Victor Mikhailuk who is a coauthor of the article personally participated in the withdrawal. We compared the witness testimonies with the Google Earth satellite images of the withdrawal path starting from the command post of the 79-th Airmobile Brigade near Dyakove village (Luhansk Region) to village Stepanivka (Donetsk Region). The route map is shown below.

Russian artillery shelled the Ukrainian convoy during its retreat. Russians used different artillery systems including Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS). Artillery attacks originated from the territory of the Russian Federation. The purpose of this report is to confirm the facts of shelling of Ukrainian units by the Russian military from the border areas of the Russian Federation and provide the evidence based on the Google Earth satellite imagery.

Chronology of events

After retreating from Dyakove, at about 12:00 on August 6, 2014 the command post of 79-th Airomobile Brigade immediately came under fire of Grad MLRS. Around 15:30 the convoy of the brigade’s vehicles came under MLRS fire between the villages of Dyakove and Nyzhnii Naholchyk. At 16:45 – near Nyzhnii Naholchyk – under cannon artillery fire. Around 18:00 en-route from the village of Yesaulivka – under cannon artillery fire from the south direction. Approximately at 20:00 en-route from Lisne – under MLRS fire.
After sunset, the convoy came to the crossing of the river Mius to the south of Lisne and began to cross the river. The head of the convoy managed to get to the other side, whereas the tail was hit by strong fire of cannon artillery and MLRS at midnight. First came several volleys of the cannon artillery and then 3-4 MLRS salvos. Half an hour before shelling, a Russian drone was spotted above the convoy. The river crossing was destroyed by the incoming fire, there were many medical casualties. The convoy was forced to go back and cross the river farther north, between Lisne and Miusynsk. From 4:00 to 6:00 am at the crossing area there were repeated single artillery strikes. Subsequently, the shelling ceased as the convoy approached the village of Latysheve. Apparently, this was due to constraints connected to forward observation and maximum range of the used systems.


For this report, we used satellite imagery from Google Earth Pro for July 26, August 2, August 4, August 15, August 23, August 30, 2014.
On the segment of the withdrawal route between Yesaulivka and Lisne numerous artillery impact craters were found. It should be noted, that there was no fighting in the area neither before nor after the Ukrainian withdrawal.
In the field [3] near Yesaulivka on the route of Ukrainian troops, there are craters visible in the imagery for August 23, 2014, but not for August 2, 2014.

In the field [4] near Lisne and near the first crossing of the river Mius the imagery for August 2 there is no trace of projectiles, but they appear on the images for August 30, 2014.

The area around the crossing [5] at the river Mius shows the craters on imagery of August 30, but no craters on August 2.

To determine the direction of the incoming fire, the “side spray” method was used (analysis of the traces of the fragments projecting diagonally from the center of the craters, typical for low angle shelling).

Craters of different origins were identified, i.e. from MLRS shells:

and from cannon artillery shells:

After analysis individual craters, they were grouped by fire directions.

In total, 5 groups of craters and 5 presumable directions were identified.


The side sprays method indicates that the craters formed by artillery shells point to the direction of a site [6] on the Russian territory (Kuibyshev district, Rostov Region), 700 meters from the Ukrainian border. The craters are present on the image of August 30, 2014.

The same Google Earth imagerey of August 30, 2014 shows traces of positioning of an artillery battery of 4-5 guns 17 200 meters to the south from the craters. The traces appear between August 4 and 30, 2014. Presumably, the shelling was performed by MSTA-B 152 mm howitzers, which were spotted [7] by InformNapalm in the Russian areas bordering Ukraine.

Position B

Traces of the position [8] of a of Grad MLRS battery are visible on an image from August 23, 2014 on the territory of the Russian Federation (the Kuibyshevo district, Rostov Region) at a distance of 19,200 m southwards from the craters.

There are visible characteristic scorched traces of MRLS salvos. The battery presumably consisted of 6 vehicles. The traces appear between August 4 and 30, 2014. The firing position is located at a distance of 1,700 meters from the border with Ukraine.

The volunteers of InformNapalm identified [9] 2B26 combat vehicles (Grad MLRS mounted on KamAZ chassis) of 18th separate Motorized Rifle Brigade of Russian Army before. In August 2014, this brigade was stationed in the area of Kuybyshevo, Rostov Region, Russia close to the Ukrainian border.

Position C

This position is also located [10] in the Kuibyshevo district at a distance of 1,900 meters from the border. It was identified by to the shapes of the craters from the cannon artillery shells. The image with craters is from August 30, 2014. The distance from the craters to the firing position is 20,700 m.

On the image from August 23, 2014, traces of firing artillery battery of 6 to 7 guns (probably one gun was relocated) are visible. The traces appear between 4 and 30 August 2014.

Position D

This position [11] is identified by the rocket craters (satellite image of August 30, 2014). The distance from the location of the battery is 4,900 meters to the Ukrainian border  and 21,700 meters  to the craters. Presumably, in this case the Russian troops used 9K51M Tornado-G MLRS (modernized version of Grad) with the new 9M521 rockets, which have maximum effective range of up to 40,000 meters. The conventional Grad rockets have a maximum range of 20,400 meters.

The launch traces of the battery of 6 MLRS pieces are visible on the image from August 23, 2014. The traces appear between 4 and 30 August 2014.

Position E

The last position [12] is the farthest from both the border (5,800 meters) and from the craters (28,000 meters). Thus it was presumably used for 9K51M Tornado-G MLRS system. Indeed, this position was identified based by rocket craters. The craters are visible in the image from August 30, 2014.

There are traces of 2 MLRS pieces visible in this field on the image form August 15, 2014. The traces appear between July 26 and August 15.


EN-Russian-CrossborderShelling-of-Ukraine [13]

The analysis of available satellite images yields new evidence of attacks of Ukrainian territory by Russian artillery units from the sites on the territory of the Russian Federation.
Here we report the analysis of 539 craters and identified launch sites. The locations of the traces of two cannon artillery batteries (position A and C) were found. Also we identified launch sites of three MLRS batteries (position B, D and E). All of them are on the territory of the Russian Federation, near Ukrainian border. The configurations of the shelling craters corroborate the findings pertaining to the firing positions and the type of artillery. Conclusions about the artillery equipment are corroborated by the characteristic traces on their firing positions. The positions were sufficiently close to the border with Ukraine – from 700 to 5,800 meters to enable the shelling. Fire from cannon artillery systems was delivered at the distances of 17,200-20,700 meters, which indicates the use of MSTA-B 152 mm howitzers (effective range – 6,400-24,700 meters). The fire of MRLS was delivered at the distance of 19,200-28,000 meters, presumably from Grad and/or Tornado-G systems. We plan more publications on shelling of the Ukrainian Army and Border Guards from the territory of Russia in the summer of 2014. We welcome any relevant videos and photos, as well as comments of eyewitnesses and participants of those events.


Below are the videos illustrating withdrawal of Ukrainian units from the encirclement near Dyakove. The author of the videos Victor Mikhailyuk [1] (strong language detected)

1) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYI1ocbeP24 [14]

2) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YctwMxWWeP4 [15]

3) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubCyINOhcdk [16]

4) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSLzsWY4S6s [17]

5) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUE5sv3toiA [18]

6) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpxyG0ZsaNY [19]

7) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8ha9zQX420 [20]

8) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dalaH75dehk [21]

9) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqGjhvqLwMw [22]

10) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7XTK7H74is [23]

This publication was prepared by Victor Mikhailyuk [1] and Andriy Karbivnychyi [2] with the assistance of Mikhail Kuznetsov [24], a volunteer of InformNapalm.

Translated by Volodymyr B. Bogdanov

Edited by Artem Velichko


 (CC BY 4.0) The article specifically prepared for  InformNapalm.org [25], an active link to our project is obligatory for any reprint or further use of the material.

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