How Open-Source Intelligence Is Helping Clear The Fog Of War In Ukraine

From high-resolution satellite images to TikTok videos, governments no longer control information from the front lines. Hours before Vladimir Putin announced the start of “special military operations” on the morning of Feb. 24, Moscow time, a small team of researchers based in Monterey, California, knew that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had begun.

Watching the traffic layer on Google Maps for the main road from Belgorod, Russia, to Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, analysts at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies saw a “traffic jam” appear at 3:15 a.m., local time. It was right at the spot where a graduate student, Steven De La Fuente, had earlier seen the buildup of armored personnel carriers, mobile missile launchers, and other military vehicles on high-resolution images from a commercial satellite that can pierce clouds and fog using radar. He had been scouring imagery for the region after TikTok videos posted by Russian civilians appeared to show hardware including Buk surface-to-air missile launchers.

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