Thursday, October 09, 2008

AAAS satellite image analysis reveals South Ossetian damage

Satellite images captured before and after the 7-8 August clash between Georgia, South Ossetian separatists and Russia reveal that 424 civilian structures near Tskhinvali were damaged by 19 August – although they appeared intact in images taken on 10 August and earlier, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has reported.

Georgia has claimed that Russia fully controlled Tskhinvali by 10 August, according to the BBC News. But Russia has disputed the departure date, and claims that Georgian troops inflicted most of the damage to civilian areas of South Ossetia.

The new satellite-image analysis, completed by the AAAS Science and Human Rights Program at the request of Amnesty International USA shows 202 damaged structures on 10 August, plus an additional 424 damaged structures on 19 August that did not appear damaged in the earlier image, for a total of 626 points of destruction affecting civilians. Encompassing 1,000 square kilometers, the AAAS study examined damage to 24 villages near the city of Tskhinvali in South Ossetia, close to the Georgia-Russia border.

In the village of Tamarasheni, for example, 152 structures that were intact on 10 August seemed to have been damaged by 19 August. Similarly, said Lars Bromley, who heads the AAAS Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project, 70 structures in the village of Berula, all seemingly intact on 10 August, apparently had been damaged by 19 August.

No damage could be seen in eight of the 24 villages, mostly located to the far eastern and southern regions of the study area, Bromley reported. But two satellite images captured 10 August and 19 August clearly showed that the remaining 16 villages sustained damage during that time period. Along a corridor including the villages of Eredvi, Berula and Argvitsi, for instance, 147 structures were damaged or destroyed by 19 August, Bromley said, but only 10 damaged structures were seen on 10 August.

In contrast, Tskhinvali, the capital of the South Ossetian region of Georgia "sustained the majority of damage (182 structures) on or before" 10 August, the AAAS report concludes. Another four structures in Tskhinvali seemed to have been damaged by 19 August.

Satellite images reveal significant fire damage to civilian structures in the South Ossetian region.

In summary, the AAAS report concludes: "Imagery analysis demonstrates initial concentrated damage to the city of Tskhinvali and small amounts of damage to outlying areas that had occurred by 10 August. By 19 August, a much broader range of destruction occurred in the village areas surrounding Tskhinvali … Other significant signs of military actions were also shown to have occurred in the region, including many obvious craters from shelling, and tracks from the presumed movement of military vehicles, which resulted in clearly visible damage in the vegetated areas throughout the region."

View the complete report here.


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