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Geolocating Stanislav Tarasov

May 28, 2015

By Aric Toler

When searching for images near Pavlovka, a site of artillery attacks from Russia to Ukraine, we find a series of images from a soldier named Stanislav Tarasov. These photos can be found on various geomapping services for photos posted to Instagram, including Gramfeed.

By looking at other images in his Instagram, one stands out, showing the soldier holding his gun, facing a village in the background. This image has since been deleted from Instagram, but can still be found on Tarasov’s other social media accounts, including VK (archive) and Odnoklassniki.

pav1

When looking for suitable locations that fit this image around Pavlovka, numerous views facing the small village seem plausible, yet only one will fit all visible features.  Using Google Earth, we can use the historical imagery that most closely matches the time of the photo (Summer 2014). Luckily, there are numerous satellite images of Pavlovka, Russia from August 2014, allowing us to closely match the satellite imagery with the ground-level view from Tarasov’s social media account.

By changing the angle of the camera in Google earth, we are able to recreate the view of the image. By matching the roofs, path, and crop patterns, we can come closer to geolocating this photo. By facing east from the point at 47°56’10.33″N 39°50’2.55″E, the road, brush, and roof patterns match perfectly.

pav2
pav3

Only the top part of this path (marked with a blue arrow) is visible in the above satellite image, thus the road’s bend is not depicted.

Many factors have changed in the satellite image since the photograph was taken—the wear on the fields with additional roads, some grass patterns, and so on. Additionally, some landmarks visible in the satellite photos, such as additional houses and what appears to be bales of hay, are not visible in the original photo due to the soldier obscuring the view. However, most importantly, the static landmarks match— an especially strong match with the angles of the roofs and the spacing between and sequencing of the houses matching. Due to this, along with the circumstantial evidence of this soldier being in Pavlovka at the time of the photograph’s upload, we can confidently say that this photograph was taken facing east towards the village of Pavlovka in the summer of 2014.

Stanislav Tarasov was featured in Hiding in Plain Sight: Putin’s War in Ukraine, available here.

Update:

Comment “Markus W.” submitted the following images that further solidify the geolocation above, using extra landmarks visible in satellite imagery. With his permission, below are his findings:

uFA3scj 3fgnLfz

 

Aric Toler

Aric Toler has written with Bellingcat since 2015 and currently leads the Eurasia/Eastern Europe team. Along with his research into topics in the former Soviet Union, he organizes and leads Bellingcat's Russian-language workshops for journalists and researchers. He graduated with an MA in Slavic Languages & Literatures from the University of Kansas in 2013, focusing on Russian literature and intellectual history. After graduation, he worked for two years as an intelligence specialist in the private sector. If you have any questions, or have a story idea related to eastern Europe or Eurasia, you can contact him at arictoler@bellingcat.com

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29 Comments

  1. Just a A

    Great gelocation. Thanks for the work and the example.

    However, I would say that 7 and 8 are slightly “wrongly” identified:
    * 7 should be the two houses on the other side of the street (in the line of sight). There are two top of roofs recognizable. The lower is directly atop the plants (only some pixels). The house on the other side (7 on the map) should be the darker house behind this two buildings. The visible right roof should be the extension. The tree in front of the house(s) should cover both top of roofs of this buildings. This also fits better to the wide of building 6.
    * 8 should also mark mainly the buildings on the the other side of the street. The 8 on the map seems to be / could be a garage and is visible atop this buildings (middle right, there is a small dark line visible which is most likely the garage door.) One the right side beside this buldings there is a mast and in front of the mast (lower part) it seems to be there are plants, which again seem to be behind the building. The visible mast is nearer to the camera compared to the “garage”, so the plants can be behind the garage.

    Sorry for the nitpicking, but i think / fear that there should be as few errors as possible in this important reports. 🙁

    Reply
  2. Guido Richter

    Big gap between house 1 and 2 in the image. Nearly no gap between house 2 and 3. Looks quite different on the satellite image. Can not be explained by a strange angle of the view. I have massive doubts it’s the right location. So be honest: it’s impossible that this investigation shows the truth.

    I have more than 10 years experience in geolocating photographs to a map.

    Yours
    Guido Richter
    Germany

    Reply
    • Just a A

      2 are two buildings, most of the left building (the bigger one on the satellite pic, you can see parts of the roof) is covered by trees and is therefore not visible, you see mainly the small extension on the right (which is located between 2 and 3 in the satellite pic).

      Reply
    • Mike

      Guido do you have a facebook account where I can reach you and explain why that Article is absolutely plausible?
      Also im interested in talking to someone with 10 years of experience in geolocation.

      (nice drolling by the way)

      Reply
  3. Guido Richter

    You can see all the houses slightely from the right (see roofs). If I estimate the most fitting location considering the roofs there is no way that there can be such a big gap between house 1 and 2.

    I don’t know what “drolling” means but if it should mean “trolling” you should give evidence for that. To give my own evidence I made a picture. http://i.imgur.com/N8ax4rY.jpg

    You can find me at facebook, of course. https://www.facebook.com/guido.richter.121

    Reply
    • Just a A

      Thanks for the pic. However, you are wrong. It is the right scene.

      * The two questions marks/buildings top left:
      In the original pic (see above, or https://wp4553-flywheel.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/pav1.jpg), you can clearly see the left house. The house in the background is not clearly visible. However, if you have a closer look at house number 1 you will see a small step in the roof on the left side, indicating that there is a house behind house 1.

      * the beding of the road:
      The picture was made from a position not visible on the GoogleEarth pic presented here. A rough estimate for the position should be 47.936121 39.834444 (date of map: 08.08.2014).

      *the houses/buildings in the area bottom right:
      See my comment #1. The buildings in this area are visible, but mostly covered by plants. You can only see small parts of the roofs.

      * gap between house 1 and 2:
      See my answer to your initial post. Your gap starts at the left side of the (right sided) extension of building 2 – and therefore on the right side of building 2. 2 is almost completely covered by the your gap (and the trees).

      Reply
    • Markus W.

      Hi Guido,
      thank you for your effort. You inspired me to make some analysis myself. You made a mistake with house Nr. 2 – it is blocked by trees – we can only see No. 2a which is the small one inbetween 2 and 3. As you can see in my picture of the houses:
      http://i.imgur.com/3fgnLfz.jpg

      Also, take a look at the powerlines visible above the houses:
      http://i.imgur.com/uFA3scj.jpg
      open fullscreen to see the details!

      Best regards and keep up the good work, BC. Also feel free to use these pics.

      Reply
          • Just a A

            Unfortunately, it is really only near – i guess i missed to include the tree at the street in area c in the GoogleEarth pic.

            And than there are that many feature still not marked, eg. the big tree in the background (behind building 2 in your map), the visible parts of Rebrikovka, the fields and the farm in the background, the utility poles in Pavlovka, …

          • Aric Toler

            I’m sure we could go on for weeks finding more features to match, as it is very clearly a match to everyone who is not conspiratorial. Plus, to make it all much simpler, I found this photo in the first place because the geotag was in Pavlovka. So it was far from a mystery in the first place. Those who were arguing in this thread are either just being contrarian or are seriously deluded.

        • Aric Toler

          Very nice! I’d add that to the post too, but I think by now it’s overkill.

          Reply
  4. Not Mark

    Great job everyone! I like the additional analysis that you guys performed in the comments here. Another successful geolocation for Bellingcat and users.

    Reply
  5. Guido Richter

    I cancel my doubts on that. The hidden house is the key to understand the big gap and now it makes absolute sense. Thanks for pointing that out. In fact the original analysis is still wrong and the images should be changed. For me it’s a good evidence that this page is not just some stupid conspiracy thing. Maybe I’ll start supporting it in a way fitting to my reduced free time. I’m glad that my doubts led to a bigger discussion revealing some mistakes but emphasizing the main point as being true without further reasons for disbelief.

    Reply
  6. Guido Richter

    BTW: I’m an OpenStreetMap contributor. I’ll try to insert some objects which should make analysis much more easier for people having a look at this map position.

    Reply
  7. Z

    нормально так? вместо ответа на вопрос откуда велись обстрелы? ,нам внушают что Российский солдат был замечен там то и там то ,Что в принципе ни о чем не говорит кроме того что Россия увеличила ,а может и уменьшила контингент на границе в ответ на провокационные обстрелы ,украинцев про-плаченых Мировым правительством и своей шестеркой США. Как и про-плаченных владельцев данного ресурса.

    Reply
      • boggled

        Mad Dog what I did was using Google browser was click anywhere on the article page and then click ‘translate to English’.
        You do not have to do the copy paste thingy.
        However, some apps and programs allow you to drag and drop a ‘copy’ or ‘ ctrl+c ‘ and ctrl + v a highlighted comment and individually translating them.
        I seen one of those on FF and I have seen something like that in a few of the messenger programs.
        Remember although translator programs are good, they are not perfect and a statement can mean the total opposite of what was stated.
        This is where having a friend you can email and ask is the better method.
        But for the regular person with no one they know speaking Russian, the former method works a lot of the time, just be aware errors can occur.
        That goes for those translating from English to Russian as well.

        From Google, this is what I got –

        ok so? instead of answering the question of where the shelling took place? We are told that the Russian soldier was seen there is something there that in principle nothing to say except that Russia has increased, and perhaps reduced the troops on the border in response to the provocative shelling, Ukrainians Plachenov pro-world government and its six USA. As pro-Plachenov owners of this resource.

        Fare thee well

        Reply
        • Translator

          I posted the accurate translation below, in case you’re interested.
          Cheers

          Reply
    • Translator

      See second paragraph for translation! First is from me 🙂

      From myself: I just stumbled across this blog and am very impressed. I’m a native Russian speaker so would be glad to contribute in translating as well as disseminating any material. This treasure trove of a blog should be made available in Russian, if it isn’t already.

      As for the Russian comment above, it’s just your typical brainwashed Russkiy Patriot:
      “Ain’t that sweet, eh? Instead of answering the questions of where the barrages/fire was coming from, we are told that a Russian military man was spotted as being this place or that place, which in itself says little besides the fact that Russia has increased, or diminished, its military contingent on the border in response to the provocative shelling from the Ukrainian side. Ukrainians who are payed-for agents of the World Government (this is a Russian synonym for the conspiratorial acronym NWO often used by conspiracy nuts) with its bitch the USA. As is the case with the owners of this blog who are also on the same dole.

      Reply
  8. boggled

    http://www.evasiljeva.ru/2015/06/30062015.html

    A fraction of those killed in Donbas that are Russian soldiers, just those confirmed cases.
    How many is the actually number inside Ukraine on rotation, and how many is the actual Cargo 200 there are is still a guessing game, but this number of 562 confirmed is large.
    Is the real number twice that, or 5 times that or more?
    Russian SOF would obviously be more, since they are the cannon fodder the Russian Generals and FSB leading the battles throws into the fight first.

    Fare thee well

    Reply
  9. Baldur

    There appears to be some geography missing in the comparison of the photos to the sat imagery. While a ‘path’ might be transformed by the passage of vehicles, that might indicate a sat image was dated before the vehicular traffic changed the path, not after ward when the change should be evident. “Not depicted” isn’t a satifactory explanation of that.

    Secondarily, from the photograph it appears the village lies in a small depression in front of what appear to be a wooded area on a height. The two wooded areas are separated by a cultivated or deforested area. That imagery is not evident on sat images used for ‘geolocations’. Human occupation may provide reference points but Mother Nature does it even better. In this case the message is clear -look elsewhere.

    Reply
  10. Baldur

    Those haystacks supposedly ‘blocked’ by the soldiers image raise another question. Given the amount of lateral space they occupy, there should be more evidence of the village to the right of the soldier’s image than there is. What is depicted in the photo is only a small section of the village if the sat images used in comparison are valid representation of fact. Not only does the soldier block some significant objects, his position makes another part of this ‘landmark’ village disappear.

    Reply
    • boggled

      Bauldur, I think the haystacks, if that is what they are although they each look bigger then many of the houses, are hidden by the shrubs in the matching yellow boxes, not the soldiers.
      If you look just past the yellow box, in the second photo with a yellow box, following the blue line you will see a path that juts to the right and leads to the haystacks (?).
      If you were looking at the satellite image, Stanislav Tarasov would be about an inch or two down below the bottom of the satellite image or an inch or two below the yellow box on the blue path if it was extended below the image.
      It looks exactly like correct geolocating to me, everything matches up.

      Fare thee well

      Reply

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