MUKACHEVO, Ukraine — The Russian military escalated its assault on Ukraine on Friday, bombing new cities in the country’s west and shelling residential areas near Kyiv, with fresh satellite images showing several homes on fire.
Muzzle flashes and smoke are visible in some of the satellite images obtained by Maxar’s WorldView-2 satellite, which has been watching the invasion of Ukraine by Russia since Feb. 24 and producing high-above views of the conflict.
Russia has faced international condemnation and sanctions for its actions, especially in the space sector, where many partnerships have dissolved or frayed.
In response to the crisis, President Biden formally called on Congress to end normal trade relations with Russia and announced a new slate of bans on Russian imports and exports. Biden and leaders from the other Group of Seven nations also plan to announce new economic actions against Russia meant to hold President Vladimir Putin accountable for the invasion.
The heavy bombardment from Russia is “a war of annihilation” upon Ukraine, the besieged country’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said in a New York Times report Saturday (March 12).
Maxar Technologies said satellite images taken on Thursday showed that the 64km (40 miles) long line of vehicles, tanks and artillery has broken up and been redeployed.
Firing is particularly heavy in the suburbs of the capital, Kyiv, which has been fighting off troops for three weeks; shelling was particularly intense in Irpin and Bucha on the northwest rim of the capital, the Times said.
It added that images also show convoy elements further north have repositioned near the town of Lubyanka with towed artillery howitzers in firing positions nearby.
However, Ukraine’s military reported that is has been able to stop the Russian advance, inducing “heavy losses in manpower and equipment.” While the Times could not directly verify Ukraine’s claim, military experts and the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for the Study of War think tank have produced similar analyses, the Times said.
WorldView-2, in line with local reports from the Times, shows evidence of homes and other buildings set on fire by the military activity. Impact craters and other damage are visible in satellite images from Moschun and Chernihiv, which are northwest and northeast of Kyiv respectively.
The company said the images showed armoured units manoeuvring in and through the surrounding towns close to the Antonov airport, northwest of Kyiv.
A notorious 40-mile (64-km) convoy seen northwest of Kyiv in recent days appears to be dispersing and moving to other areas, the fresh photos show, as the Times reported ground forces in Ukraine sending anti-tank missiles towards the group. The photos also show the effects of recent attacks on the Chernobyl nuclear power facility and Antonov Airport, and cars filled with people fleeing Kyiv.
Some analysts have said this week Russia was gradually overcoming logistical issues and was preparing for a ground assault on the capital.
Ukrainian soldiers there described fierce fighting for control of the main highway leading into the capital, and the AFP news agency reported seeing missile attacks in Velyka Dymerka just outside Kyiv’s city limits.
The United Nations estimates more than 2.5 million refugees are in neighboring countries, with 1.85 million “internally displaced” within Ukraine and 12.65 million “directly affected by the conflict.” Ukraine’s estimated 2021 population is 43.7 million, according to the CIA Factbook.
Yet, many more remain trapped in a number of Ukrainian cities under near-constant bombardment. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of again disrupting the evacuation of civilians, but said 7,144 residents were saved on Friday.