US-based Maxar Technologies says recent satellite pictures show Russian military activity in multiple locations across Belarus, the annexed Crimea region of Ukraine and western Russia,

This Friday, Feb. 18, 2022 satellite imagery provided by Maxar Technologies shows a closer view of S-400 air defence units at Luminets Airfield in Belarus.
This Friday, Feb. 18, 2022 satellite imagery provided by Maxar Technologies shows a closer view of S-400 air defence units at Luminets Airfield in Belarus. (AP)

Satellite imagery taken this week shows military activity in multiple locations across Belarus, the annexed Crimea region of Ukraine and western Russia near Ukraine's border, a private US company has said.

US-based Maxar Technologies, which has been tracking the buildup of Russian forces for weeks, said on Friday the images show recent helicopter deployments, consisting of both troop transport and ground attack helicopters, at multiple locations close to the border.

Images also showed additional ground attack aircraft, air defence units and drone equipment to have been recently deployed.

Reuters could not independently verify what was shown in the images.

In this Friday, Feb. 18, 2022 satellite imagery provided by Maxar Technologies, Ground forces units, troop tents and a field hospital remain deployed at Novoozernoye, Crimea.
In this Friday, Feb. 18, 2022 satellite imagery provided by Maxar Technologies, Ground forces units, troop tents and a field hospital remain deployed at Novoozernoye, Crimea. (AP)

Over 50 helicopters arrive in Belarus

US President Joe Biden said on Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to invade Ukraine and that he was spreading false information to try to build a pretext for a military strike that could happen in days. Russia says it has no such intention and accuses the West of irresponsible fear-mongering.

Maxar said the images showed that a large new deployment of at least 50 helicopters had arrived in northwest Belarus.

A new helicopter unit and battle group deployment consisting of tanks, armoured personnel carriers and support equipment were deployed at an airfield about 16 kilometres (9.9 miles) from the Ukraine border, the satellite firm said.

A satellite image shows attack helicopter deployments at Zyabrovka airfield in Belarus February 15, 2022. Picture taken February 15, 2022. [Maxar Technologies]
A satellite image shows attack helicopter deployments at Zyabrovka airfield in Belarus February 15, 2022. Picture taken February 15, 2022. [Maxar Technologies] (Reuters)

More intel needed

The US government contracts with commercial satellite firms for imagery as a supplement and to ease the strain on imagery collection systems needed for other top-priority information.

Commercial satellite images, as a snapshot in time, do not provide indisputable evidence of exactly what the Russian military is doing or why.

“You can see something on a base, that looks like a base that has a lot of activity,” and reach some broad conclusions. “But in terms of what's being done there, and what the units are — that takes a lot more intel,” said Hans Kristensen, who has extensively analyzed commercial satellite imagery to study nuclear weapons developments in China and elsewhere in his position as director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists.

A satellite image shows an overview of a helicopter deployments near Lake Donuzlav, in Crimea, Ukraine, February 18, 2022. [Maxar Technologies]
A satellite image shows an overview of a helicopter deployments near Lake Donuzlav, in Crimea, Ukraine, February 18, 2022. [Maxar Technologies] (Reuters)
Source: TRTWorld and agencies