the home of online investigations

Geolocated June BUK convoy videos in Russia

November 7, 2014

By Veli-Pekka Kivimäki

In September, the discovery of six videos of a Buk convoy in Russia was reported on Bellingcat. During the research done by the Bellingcat team, another 10 videos have been discovered from June 23-25, which can be linked to the same convoy. As the basis for the geolocation work, the previous videos from June were utilized both as reference material, as well as to give indications of a possible route which would narrow down the search area.

At the end of the post, there is a summary map and a table with links to all the locations.

The first video examined here is one with the reported location of Troitskiy. The town can be found east and slightly north of Stary Oskol. One possible route from Kursk to Stary Oskol would take the convoy down P190 which passes through Troitskiy, making this a possible match. Looking at maps and overhead satellite imagery, it can be seen there are not too many intersections to check. One location in particular has matching features, and jumping into Street View confirms the match.

01-troitsky
Left, video from Troitskiy. Right, Google Street View.

The second video is an important one, because it provides a lot of detail on many of the convoy’s vehicles, including clear view of the license plates. The video’s description places it in Stary Oskol, and the video provides many landmarks to make the process of locating the video easier. A few such landmarks are the overpass, car dealerships and light rail track. These place the video on P188, which runs through the city.

02-staryoskol
Left, video from Stary Oskol. Right, Google Street View.

Next, we have a video from YouTube, which doesn’t include location information. It also includes only a single Buk TEL (Transporter Erector Launcher) vehicle, so the link to the bigger convoy also needs to be established. This can be done by looking at the unique markings on the Buk TEL itself, as well as the trailer it’s on. The TEL has paint scratched off in a pattern that matches a TEL seen in our previous video. There are also missiles loaded on both units, the markings and sticker placement on trailer match, and based on frame-by-frame analysis of the video from 0:55 to 1:20 the license plate would appear to match as well.

03-tel-comparison
Left, Buk TEL in Stary Oskol. Right, Buk TEL in YouTube video.

As for the location, the video offers an important clue: a sign on the side of the road. The sign reads “Поповы Дворы”, Popovy Dvory. This can be found to be a location in the Kursk region, leading us to the exact location on road A144 / E38, as pictured below.

04-popovy-dvory-sign
Above, screenshot from video. Below, Google Street View.

Number four, we have a video again from Stary Oskol. This video is also along the light rail, which means this video locates along the same path as some previous videos.

05-stary-oskol-bldg
Above, two screen shots from the video. Below, two Street View pictures from matching location.

The fifth video has been deleted from VK since the Bellingcat team discovered it, but geolocation was done for it based on an archived copy. Based on previous experience, it was thought that the overall appearance of the roadways matches the Stary Oskol region, and further support this was the apparent rail track on the right of the image. Overhead satellite imagery was examined to find possible matches, and a suitable stretch of road was found just north of Neznamovo.

06-stary-oskol-deleted
Above, two screen shots from deleted VK video. Below, two Street View pictures for comparison.

Moving along to number six, we have another video from Stary Oskol, of which many copies have been circulating on VK. One of the videos is uploaded June 24th, meaning it’s the likely close to the source, if not the original. The vehicles in this video again match to the other videos of the June 23-25 convoy, down to the license plates. The video is filmed on the same major road from Stary Oskol, as many of the other videos.

07-stary-bridge
Above, convoy in the video. Below, reference image from Street View.

The 7th video helpful is helpfully titled “Трасса Старый Оскол – ОЭМК”, meaning the light rail track between Stary Oskol and OEMK steel works.

08-stary-rail
Above, convoy in the video. Below, reference image from Street View.

Number eight is a video from a previously known location. It is showing the convoy vehicles at a turnaround in Alexeyevka, with a familiar building in background from the older Alexeyevka video. In the screen captures below, you can see the back of a DFDS Transport truck on the left, and the front of the same truck at the left edge of the frame in the right picture.

09-alexeyevka
Left, new Alexeyevka video. Right, video reported in September.

Number nine is another video reportedly from Alexeyevka. The video shows a 3-minute stretch of the same road, giving a good understanding of the overall surroundings, and what kind of road shape to look for in overhead satellite imagery. A suitable search area with matching landmarks was found south of the city, and again it was possible to confirm the location with Street View.

10-alexeyevka-rural
Left, new rural Alexeyevka video. Right, Street View.

The tenth video is from Millerovo, and is addressed in a separate case study, walking through the geolocation process.

Summing up all the locations, we get the following map:

map-june-mb
# Location Coordinates Buk TELAR 3×2 in video?
1 Troitskiy 51.3590587,37.500688 Yes, 00:24
2 Stary Oskol 51.3590587,37.500688 Yes, 02:01
3 Popovy Dvory 51.6544589,36.7921105 No
4 Stary Oskol 51.3065105,37.9023863 No
5 Stary Oskol 51.2707467,37.9254813 No
6 Stary Oskol 51.3203988,37.886651 No
7 Neznamovo 51.2441558,37.9365475 No
8 Alexeyevka 50.624703,38.6503823 Yes, 6:22
9 Alexeyevka 50.5831713,38.7146552 Yes, 0:52
10 Millerovo 48.902343, 40.444658 No

In the follow-on post, we will examine a Buk convoy’s movements in Russia in July.

Veli-Pekka Kivimäki

Veli-Pekka is a doctoral student at Finnish National Defence University, researching social media and open source intelligence. He has a long background in the technology industry, more recently focusing on defense research.

Join the Bellingcat Mailing List:

Enter your email address to receive a weekly digest of Bellingcat posts, links to open source research articles, and more.

Support Bellingcat

You can support the work of Bellingcat by donating through the below link:

4 Comments

  1. Daniel

    Great job, I really wonder how you find all those uploaded movies?
    Most movies are not that easy to find, since the title doesn’t give a clue.
    I guess you guys get many tips from people who discovered the movies?

    Anyway, I found a movie that might also be connected with the convoy somehow.
    It is a movie of 4 emtpy trailers, probably returned from Ukraine and on the way
    to collect more military equipment. It is uploaded on 5 july:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_dHrEoPRX4
    The location is easy to find, since the town is mentioned and there is only one place where a road goes under the track of the train: http://www.google.nl/maps/@48.7349682,40.3704042,375m/data=!3m1!1e3

    Reply
    • bellingcatadmin

      Thanks, that’s interesting, we’ll take a look at it. Most of the movies were actually found by manually searching for them, Iggy did a particularly large amount of work doing that.

      Reply
  2. Daniel

    I have been trying to find Russian military equipment being transported through
    the Ukrainian border, but I start to understand why nobody (except the Russians
    themselsves) could have seen this.

    I found some movies made in the end of June at the border crossing of
    Должанський (Dolzhans’kyi) – Новошахтинск (Novoshakhtinsk).

    This movie shows the Russian side of the story: some damage on the Russian
    side of border at Новошахтинск (Novoshakhtinsk):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxeyz-KVK7k (date:20062014)
    Some sad looking people and sad looking custom officers telling about
    the Ukrainians have attacked their border.

    These movies show the Ukrainian side of the story:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hA6GGPPMBhY (date:21062014)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrJFGOW2KbY (date:23062014)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=thCMS0IF7WQ (date:23062014)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddbgzoNTcDc (date:26062014)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiPDao79pv0 (date:26062014)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEahqYCZtws (date:07072014)
    A totally destroyed border crossing without anybody checking it,
    it’s obvious the Russians did this and were at total control of this border crossing
    in the end of June and beginning of July. The last movie is not clear to me
    if it was made by pro-Russians or Ukrainians, but it shows still a total
    destroyed border crossing.

    So for the convoy with the Buk’s which were on the move in Russia it
    was a piece of cake to cross this border completely unnoticed
    (except by Russian border guards who were in total control).
    Since of course also civilians were not allowed to cross this border
    (maybe only pro-Russians), we see almost no people here, so
    the few people who filmed here certainly took a risk.

    Reply
  3. Daniel

    Another place that had been shelled in the night of 20 to 21 june is Izvaryne
    (which now I remember was in the news, because of Ukrainian customs had
    to flee to into Russia after an attack of the rebels, but that might be the Russian
    side of the story) (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Izvaryne ).

    I found some movies of that shelling, which you can see here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RamPRWZFeDs (date:21062014)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNiQv17DurY (date:21062014)
    When you clear it’s obvious most of the shooting comes from the Russian
    side of the border, most of the movie is made looking in the direction of Ukraine,
    which becomes clear when you look at thsis movie, where you can see the
    same ‘duty free’ building: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cH7w2S-HPes
    This movie makes clear the location where the movie has been made is here:
    http://www.google.nl/maps/@48.2923077,39.9131152,378m/data=!3m1!1e3
    (the white building is the building with ‘duty free’ sign on the wall).
    At least this does not look like a fight between the Ukrainian army and rebels,
    since this area is actually no-mans land in between Ukraine and Russia.

    Anyway, it is clear that after the fight the rebels took control over the Ukrainian
    side of the border and since that moment military equipment easily could be
    transported from Russia into Ukraine, as we can see in the following videos:

    Video #1 – military equipment transported to Donetsk (the bordertown in Russia!):
    http://vk.com/video4914731_168922974 (20-06-2014)
    Video #2 – military equipment going from Donetsk (in Russia) to Izvaryne:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3ScX18VnRQ (21-06-2014)
    Video #3 – military equipment going from Donetsk (in Russia) to Krasnodon:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LIlnM8Vzm0 (21-06-2014)
    Video #4 – military equipment in the border town of Donetsk in Russia
    http://vk.com/video-865606_169051664 (21-06-2014)
    Video #5 – military equipment in Donetsk (Russia) going to the border:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUKCSQAiPZQ (21-06-2014)

    Reply

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)