Satellite image of two large ships near Odessa

The Government of Ukraine reported on March 4 the presence of “two large Russian landing ships” that were “40 km east of Chornomorsk”, a Ukrainian port near Odessa that intends to conquer Russia. We have located them with the Sentinel 1 satellite and with expert assessments.

Capture of Sentinel-1 SAR (CSIC/INTA) VerifyRTVE

With indications from VerificaRTVE based on the information available from the war, Isabel Caballero, a remote sensing specialist at the Andalusian Institute of Marine Sciences, has detected two large ships in the area with Sentinel 1. This satellite is a SAR, a synthetic aperture radar, which sends bounced signals and can detect objects smaller than those captured by Sentinel 2, which is optical. That is, it is a satellite that has more resolution. According to the data provided by the team of this specialist, the two bright points that you see in the image above are without a doubt two ships and these are also “big, very big”. The image has been obtained by Caballero’s team in the context of the continuous remote sensing work carried out jointly by the CSIC and the National Institute of Aerospace Technology (INTA) in the “PTI Teledetect” platform. It does not allow to determine the course followed by ships.

We have searched that same area with the search engine and the two boats do not appear, which suggests that they are not civilians. Civilian vessels are required to carry an Automatic Identification System (AIS) and these do not. MarineTraffic shows two other red dots in the area, but Beatriz Gálvez, RTVE journalist and patron of recreational motor and sailing boats, has clarified that they were obstacle markings.

According to defense and weapons expert Julio Maíz, what the satellite shows are “two ships of the Russian Navy”. “Civilian ships are not. They would see each other IMO [un código asignado por la Organización Marítima Internacional]. The largest ships that Ukraine has would not reciprocate. It is not possible and less so that they are as it seems that they are anchored, ”she assures. Maíz concludes that they are “two ships of the Russian Navy.” He points out, as a “first hypothesis”, that they are “two large Russian units carrying out a naval blockade” and, as a second, that they are “two Russian amphibious ships”.

This specialist recalls that Russia has reinforced “a few days ago” the Fleet in the Black Sea with “amphibious ships”. There is persistent talk of a possible landing in Odessa, although a US Defense source (anonymous) has indicated to Reuters that he does not consider such a landing imminent.

Russian ships in the area

On March 3, two videos were released of eleven suspected Russian Navy ships spotted from a cloudy beach. Several users attributed it to a recording made from the west coast of the Crimean peninsula. Naval defense expert HI Sutton (@covertshores) placed the ships on the 4th, and specifically a group of twelve, around Lake Donuzlav, to the west of that peninsula, coming to identify the model of eleven of them. Other specialized account, The Lookout, also pointed to that geolocation.

At VerificaRTVE we also verified the presence of these ships in the same area on day 3, with Sentinel 1. The user George William Herbert, associate professor at the James Martin Center for Non-Proliferation Studies, ruled out that they were radar artifacts, natural objects, oil extraction points or other types of platforms. “There appear to be multiple radar pixels and that would indicate medium sized ships at least. Yes, I believe with reasonable confidence that they are ships”, he concluded. Since then, the boats have been more difficult to detect with different visualization tools due to the cloudiness of the area and some restrictions imposed by Defense.

Capture of Sentinel-1 SAR. Lake Donuzlav. March 3rd VerifyRTVE

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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