Ukrainian advances on Donetsk and Zaporizhia can be seen from space

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AMISSION MAN As for speculation, it seems that Ukrainian forces have begun the long-awaited counter-offensive campaign. On June 4, Russian military sources reported that Ukrainian forces had launched attacks on five axes in the Russian-held Donetsk region, in the east of the country. Ukrainian sources have been keeping conspicuously quiet. As news from the ground slowly filters out, The Economist has built a model that uses satellite data to visualize the conflict from the sky.

Our system relies on satellites that orbit over Ukraine twice a day and uses thermal imaging to detect high temperature events in areas not obscured by clouds. We use a machine learning system to estimate whether these events are related to the war, by comparing patterns with what was observed before a full-scale Russian attack in 2022. It far from perfect, but it offers a consistent and unbiased guide to probability. military operations in the country.

Analyzing the data from June 4 and 5, the model identified war-related fires at several points along the front line. Most of these fires were centered around the cities of Zaporizhia (held in Ukraine) and Donetsk (held in Russia), where there were reports of a significant increase on the night of June 4 and 5. Russian forces claim to have repelled most of the attacks.

Although our model can be used to track the offensive front, war-related fires could be the result of Russian attacks as well as Ukrainian ones. The model detected fires in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro, where airstrikes on June 3, believed to be caused by Russian missiles, killed a child and injured 22 people. In recent days the number of war-related fires has been higher in areas controlled by Ukraine than in areas under strong Russian control.

The total number of war-related fires has not increased in recent days. This may be due to the small amount of data: it can be difficult to compare the raw number of fires over time as the satellite only captures a small snapshot in time during its flying Many analysts believe that Ukraine is currently only probing Russian forces, looking for vulnerabilities – or creating them – before deploying its strongest units and firepower. artillery If the Ukrainians have really started a counter-offensive, and the weather remains clear, our model may find much more activity in the coming days.

Explore all of our code, data, and modules on GitHub.

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