Russia’s military bases have been dramatically uncensored by Google and are now visible to all, Ukraine has claimed.
The move is considered by some to be the tech giant stepping in to the war on the Ukrainian side, but Google insists they were always freely available to the public and it does not mark a change in policy.
All of Russia’s military and strategic sites are now viewable on Google Maps at maximum resolution of about 0.5 metres per pixel.
Among the sites visible are Russia’s sole decrepit aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, a nuclear weapons storage base in Murmansk, Russia’s advanced Su-57 fighter jet and air bases in strategic regions in Kurss and Kamchatka.
The sole Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov in port, where it needs to undergo constant maintenance
The nuclear-powered missile cruiser Peter the Great seen at its home port in Murmansk alongside the slightly smaller Slava class cruiser Marshal Ustinov
Two Russian nuclear-powered submarines sit in port alongside two smaller submarines in the Murmansk region, home of the Russian Northern fleet
An airbase showing a number of parked jets in an airbase in the Kursk region bordering Ukraine
More jets are visible parked out in the open outside of their hangars at a Russian military airbase, thought to be the advanced Su-57 fighter jet
A Google spokesperson insisted that there has been no change in policy of blurring sensitive sites and that the images have always been available.
A Google spokesperson said: ‘We haven’t made any blurring changes to our satellite imagery in Russia.’
Sensitive military installations in the UK are also visible on Google Maps, including the Royal Navy’s flagship aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth in its home port of Portsmouth.
It should be noted that the images are not thought to be up-to-the-minute and sometimes satellite images are not updated for years, meaning that the configuration of Russian ships and hardware could be very different today.
A trio of Russian submarines docked at their home base in the Murmansk region of northern Russia
A large number of warships are seen docked in port in Yekaterininskaya at their home in Murmansk
The Tsentral’nyy aerodrome in the east of Russia on the border with China near Kamchatka shows aircraft parked in plain sight of Google’s satellites
A Russian nuclear storage facility showing a number of missile silos in a rocky, mountainous region of Murmansk
The revelations of sensitive Russian military and strategic sites come as the country launches a renewed offensive in the Donbas region of Ukraine as the war enters a new phase.
The regional governor of the eastern Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai, claimed that The Armed Forces of Ukraine have repelled Russian troops’ offensive in Rubizhne and Popasna.
Haidai said that they would attempt to evacuate civilians from neighbouring Kreminna, just a couple of miles from Rubizhne Luhansk region, today.
People who had not already fled were effectively hostages to the Russian forces, which had not stopped shelling and blocking civilian escape routes, Haidai added.
‘Volunteers will help us in the evacuation today, the police will take elderly and less mobile people to the buses, as well as people from shelters.
‘Therefore, when you see the patrol, do not delay – this is a chance to escape.
‘Every day such opportunities decrease.’
A Ukrainian tank scores a direct hit against a Russian BMP armoured personnel carrier (right of shot) from several hundred metres, with the shot passing through the burnt out husk of a building (left of shot)
Russian troops move into Mariupol as they continue to try and take the city from Ukraine to free up forces for attacks in the Donbas
A large Russian offensive in the Donbas region had been predicted by Ukraine’s army for weeks (Service members of pro-Russian troops drive an armoured vehicle during Ukraine-Russia conflict near the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 17, 2022)
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he launched the military operation to save the region’s Russian-speaking population from a ‘genocide’ carried out by a ‘neo-Nazi’ Kyiv regime
After weeks of having their assaults on Kyiv thwarted at every turn, Putin’s commanders have now refocused their efforts on the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk, along with other regions of Ukraine’s eastern flank.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky yesterday dubbed this new assault ‘The Battle of the Donbas’.
Ukrainian media outlets and Telegram channels reported a series of explosions along the front line in the Donetsk region, with shelling taking place in Marinka, Slavyansk and Kramatorsk throughout the evening.
Local officials and media also said explosions were heard in Kharkiv in the northeast of Ukraine, Mykolaiv in the south and Zaporizhzhia in the southeast.
‘We can now confirm that Russian troops have begun the battle for the Donbas, which they have been preparing for a long time. A large part of the Russian army is now dedicated to this offensive,’ Zelensky said in his daily presidential address last night.
‘No matter how many Russian soldiers are brought here, we will fight. We will defend ourselves. I am grateful to all our fighters, to all our heroic cities in Donbas, Mariupol, as well as to the cities in the region of Kharkiv that are being held.’
The coming battle is viewed as pivotal to deciding the ultimate fate of Ukraine – and perhaps of Russia as well.