Using Google Earth, here are a few things which caught my eye of late.
Down at the cities disused airfield, Russia’s forces have been busy digging. Sept 2018 images reveal several large, earth banked enclosures (yellow & red). These type of structures are usually used for parking of military vehicles within them, or as small arms firing ranges. Me thinks the latter.
Close up of the red structure. As seen in the bottom left hand corner, there’s been a military presence at the airport since 2014.
Russia’s Forces are Getting Shy.
Sticking with Luhansk city, Aug & Sept 2018 images of a compound, show numerous military transport trucks & vehicles covered over with camouflage netting. Nothing particularly dramatic about that, except up to early 2018, vehicles here were all uncovered. This is likely to be a naive attempt to hide the vehicles from Ukrainian and OSCE UAV. I say naive, because the green netting only makes them stand out all the more. Coordinates 48 34 45.92 N 39 16 3.66 E.
The Resting place of Russia’s Cannon Fodder?
In Makiivka, on the outskirts of the occupied Donetsk city, there’s a cemetery. It’s small, and located well away from any houses and public roads. In June 2014 (right hand yellow arrow area), a handful of burials took place here. As you can see, the area is well away from the local burials within the pathed area on the far left.
Coordinates 47 59 52.80 N 38 0 3.01 E.
By Sept 2018, we can see the number of burials have dramatically multiplied.
In the above three sections, there’s now approx 1,500 graves. None show any signs of having a headstone or any form of grave decoration. What’s more, these satellite images show they’re all heavily overgrown with weeds/vegetation. The two yellow arrow areas hold around 200 graves and the red area 1,000. On the right of the red arrow, we can see well used vehicle tracks. These show vehicles routinely drive in, dispose of the bodies, then circle back around and drive away.
Close-up of the burials and vehicle tracks. Older sat images show vans and trucks next to the graves. Note the none overgrown, fresher 2018 graves by the vehicle tracks.
Are these the graves of Russia’s forces?
What we can say is the unmarked nature of the graves match those dug for soldiers seen elsewhere in Donetsk. Photos and videos show large numbers of graves with only simple wooden crosses and the occasional photo/name tag attached. With burials first taking place here once large-scale fighting had erupted, this is another strong indicator these are military graves. Also why bury large volumes of people here in a remote cemetery, when Donetsk city has numerous much larger cemeteries elsewhere?
What about Ukrainians fighting with Russia’s forces?
Yes, some of the graves maybe those of Ukrainian fighters, but… you’d expect the vast bulk of so-called “separatists” to be buried by their families in local cemeteries. Some have even suggested a more horrifying explanation. That maybe the graves contain Ukrainian civilians and prisoners, murdered by Russia’s republics.
My best guess is these are predominantly the graves of Russian mercenaries, but may include some regular Russian soldiers. 2014 saw a flood of mercenaries, regular Russian soldiers and gun-toting lowlife pouring into Ukraine from Russia. With large numbers subsequently killed and some with no fellow soldiers, friends or family willing to pay for their transportation back to Russia, this is where they end up. Add to the mix, Russia’s desire to avoid large numbers of military burials inside Russia which would attract unwanted media attention.
Local burial site seen more clearly on the left.
The isolated cemetery. It’s not overlooked by any houses and no public roads pass it. As out of sight, out of mind cemeteries go, this one wins the 1st prize.