NATO on Thursday released a collection of satellite photos on its Tumblr page, which the intergovernmental military alliance says confirms the unmistakable military presence of Russian troops and heavy weapons inside Ukraine.
“Over the past two weeks we have noted a significant escalation in both the level and sophistication of Russia’s military interference in Ukraine,” Dutch Brigadier General Nico Tak, director of NATO’s Comprehensive Crisis and Operations Management Centre said in a statement on NATO’s page.
“The satellite images released today provide additional evidence that Russian combat soldiers, equipped with sophisticated heavy weaponry, are operating inside Ukraine’s sovereign territory.”
Tak said that Russia “is reinforcing and resupplying separatist forces in a blatant attempt to change the momentum of the fighting, which is currently favoring the Ukrainian military,” and added that the pictures show “substantial numbers” of Russian troops in addition to “large quantities of advanced weapons, including air defense systems, artillery, tanks, and armored personnel carriers being transferred to separatist forces in Eastern Ukraine.”
The first photo purportedly shows “Russian military units moving in a convoy formation with self-propelled artillery in the area of Krasnodon, Ukraine” on Aug. 21, according to the post.
The second shows a self-propelled artillery battery “supported by logistical vehicles which are likely carrying extra ammunition and supplies,” which, according to NATO, are undoubtedly being controlled by Russian soldiers.
“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 said in its post.
The third is a before and after, with the left side of the image showing the area on Aug. 19 almost empty, and the right side from Aug. 20 filled with “main battle tanks, armored personnel carriers, cargo trucks and tented accommodations.”
The fourth shows self-propelled guns “pointed north, directly towards Ukrainian territory” inside Ukraine’s southern border on July 23.
The fifth is a zoomed-out perspective of the gun emplacements in the fourth.
“It is clear that from this location, it would be impossible NOT to fire into Ukrainian territory,” the post said. “This is clearly NOT an exercise; these guns are being used to support separatist forces operating in the territory of Ukraine.”
According to a Business Insider report, Russian government officials and a separatist rebel leader claim Russian troops inside Ukraine entered while “their vacations” as volunteers to help the pro-Russian separatists. (