Satellite Imagery Revealing Russian-Georgian War Crimes
20 October, 2011
Satellite Imagery Revealing Russian-Georgian War Crimes


They are on duty as soon as big disasters happen, like tsunami in Japan, riots in Egypt, war in Georgia in 2008, etc. Their mission is to deliver integrated satellite-based solutions for human security, peace and socio-economic development. The team is named UNOSAT.


UNOSAT is the UNITAR Operational Satellite Applications Program, a technology-intensive program, active in all aspects of applied research relating to satellite solutions, delivering geographic information to organizations within and outside the UN system to make a difference in

the lives of communities exposed to poverty, hazards, and conflict, or affected by humanitarian and other crises.

Since 2003, UNOSAT humanitarian rapid mapping service has already been vitally helpful for thousands of people in major emergencies. By processing of satellite imagery, generating geographic information and then analytical reports, UNOSAT specialists are supporting sufferers. Dr. Thomas Schuler is one of the experts. He worked in close collaboration with the organization during the Georgian-Russian war in August, 2008.

“The future of intelligence is not in the classified information, because so much information is still unclassified. One has to find the right way to navigate in unclassified intelligence. This is what Dr. Schuler does. His way of thinking is totally independent from any political or other influences. He just knows which data he should pick up, how he should analyze it and then arrive at logical, reliable and useful conclusions. The resource of brilliant satellite imagery technology facilitates to navigate this unclassified information and within few hours after the disaster, find right ways to effectively act to improve the situation”, a foreign source, who preferred to remain anonymous, exclusively told Georgian Journal.

Dr. Thomas Schuler is a president of International Disaster Relief Task Force specialized in museums. When the war broke out in Georgia in August 2008, his main task was to get information if there were any museums within the hostilities area, where exactly the risk zones were situated and what the condition of these buildings was. Furthermore, they had to find this out regardless of which side was controlling the territory at the given moment - Georgia or Russia.

Soon after the first days of the war, Russian Heritage Committee arrived in South Ossetia. After having spent several days there, the Committee held a press-conference saying nothing precisely but just giving a promise to UNESCO to send them the official report, which UNESCO never received.

Despite severe difficulties and high risk, it was international TV crews that managed to enter the conflict zone and get the information about the local cultural heritage. But further information about the museums within the South Ossetian territory was needed.

UNOSAT collected satellite images day by day, from house to house, detecting which of the objects was destroyed or damaged. Afterwards they elaborated statistics from their data.

“By interpreting the results given by this tremendous satellite-based system, we can see that propaganda and exaggeration of damages can be easily and quickly checked by professional analysis of satellite imagery. For example, while the official data for damage in Tskhinvali was 70 %, the satellite images clearly present that the actual data was approximately 50 % of damage in Tskhinvali (Image #1). At the same time, there was heavy concentration of damages within clearly defined residential areas in Gori, which was downplayed in the speeches of South Ossetian officials. So this technology makes it possible to uncover the lies that appear in wartime”, Dr. Schuler told Georgian Journal.

Another exceptional detail that has been revealed concerned the genocide that took place during the Russian-Georgian war in 2008. Some maps illustrate satellite-detected active fire locations of the towns north and east of Tskhinvali, South Ossetia (Image #2).

After having counted cluster of new fires every day during August, 2008, Dr. Thomas Schuler declares: “There is one statement to make for sure: these damages did not happen when the Russian army entered South Ossetia. During the four fire nights the Russian troops were standing far south from the Upper Didi Liakhvi valley”. So there must have been some other reason why dozens and dozens of houses and, in some cases, the entire villages were burnt down. Mr. Schuler pointed out possible versions in his analysis: “There are tree hypotheses: a) Natural fires: not very likely, due to the type of the spread of the fire. On contrary, it looks like separate local starting points for fire - and this means arson. b) Arson by individual criminal activity, e.g. by neighbors. This is less likely, because most of the village population had fled, and one wouldn’t expect a concentration during four nights, whereas for the other nine nights they have stayed quiet.

c) So it points to the most likely reason that this was a group activity - maybe by spontaneous hooliganism or by planned action by South Ossetian Militia”, he concluded.

A political scientist and an expert in Caucasus matters, Mamuka Areshidze told Georgian Journal that he himself had had conversations with foreign journalists who were first brought to Tskhinvali by South Ossetians after the war. “All of them state that the Southern area nearby Tskhinvali was damaged by Georgian artillery, but the central and the Northern parts of the territory were destroyed by the air forces. During the hostilities it was extremely difficult to identify who damaged the buildings and burnt down the villages, but there is one notable fact. On August 12-13, 2008, the so called president of South Ossetia, Eduard Kokoity started saying that Georgians would not ever step on his land. Such statements became so frequent that soon Kokoity, inhibited by Russia, had to totally change his policy to Akhalgori - inhabited by Georgians, expressing tolerance towards them, thus trying to demonstrate that the obvious genocide which had happened was merely caused by war emotions, not by their resistance to Georgia”.

Dr. Thomas Schuler also states that satellite imagery technology can not prove who exactly did it, “But it does give a solid basis for thinking about more or less probable reasons”, he concludes. And as a result, these possible reasons, along with correct analysis lead to the conclusions, affecting human lives.


Other Stories
Georgian citizens are granted the right to work in France
The French Embassy in Georgia made remarks on granting Georgian citizens the right to work in France
The New York Times: Bitcoin declines but Georgia still bet on it
The New York Times has recently published an article about reasons, challenges and causes of generating Bitcoin in the former Soviet country Georgia.
EU to allocate € 13 billion for Eastern Partnership countries, including Georgia
The European Union together with the World Bank plans to allocate investment worth € 13 billion for infrastructure projects in the Eastern Partnership countries.
Anaklia Port and its importance for Georgia
In 2016, Anaklia Development Consortium was authorized to launch the construction of Anaklia Port.
Cryptocurrency mining threatens electrical network in Abkhazia
In the breakaway region of Akbhazia rampant cryptocurrency mining is threatening the shaky electrical network, reports an article of the news portal EuroNet.
Caucasus Wine University to be opened in Gurjaani
In the Kakheti region a new viticulture campus of the Caucasus University is in the process of planning.
Photos describing life of the poorest in Georgia
Fight with poverty should be among top priorities of every government in every country.
Training farmers to rescue the organic hazelnut production in Georgia
Even drizzling rain and unpleasant gusts of wind can’t prevent the farmers from coming and participating in the agricultural training.
Bleak times for organic farmers in Georgia – but there is hope
Organic hazelnut production is a delicate plant in Georgia that has emerged just a couple of years ago. Various pests, among them the Asian stink bug Parosana, trouble hazelnut farmers and menace their livelihood – even before their businesses could really take off.
Hybrid car imports are going through the roof in Georgia
Thanks to their fuel economy, the popularity of hybrid cars is increasing in Georgia, where fuel affordability is low and prices for fuel are unstable.
The New Year offer from MAQRO Construction - Apartments with unbelievable discounts and the parking spaces for FREE!
Location, green yard, spaces for various needs, experience of the construction company and parking space are the main important criteria for potential buyers of apartments.
Interview with the co-founder of Kiwi Vegan Café – the first vegan place in Tbilisi
Behind the Kiwi Vegan Café stands a group of activists who wants to raise Georgian’s awareness for animal rights and welfare.
Biblusi opens first shop for tourists - Georgian
The largest book shop in Georgia Biblusi opens the first shop specially designated to the needs and interests of tourists and named it Georgian.
Georgia improves by five ranks in the Prosperity Index
In the overall Prosperity Index rankings, Georgia has climbed by 5 positions from 85 to 80 when compared to last year. As such, Georgia is the best performing country in the CIS zone.
The future is bright for electric cars in Georgia
The numerous hybrid cars in the streets of Tbilisi cannot be overlooked. Entrepreneur Sulkhan Gvalia calls them “pagers”, referring to the predecessor of mobile phones.
Georgia’s fight against the big tiny enemy – Asian Parosana
It’s a tiny creature, but the harm it did to the Georgian agriculture sector was and still is immense.
New cable route: from Kobi to Gudauri in 15 minutes
On the 15th of December, cable transport is scheduled to be opened connecting Kobi and Gudauri.
Tourist boom in Gudauri – majority of hotels are booked by foreigners
Gudauri is among the most popular winter resorts in Georgia.
Medical tourism increases in Georgia
In the last 9 months, Georgia was visited by 19 500 foreigners for medical and recovery purposes.
Doing business in Georgia has become easier than in America
According to the Doing Business 2019 report published by the World Bank, Georgia ranked 6th among 190 countries in terms of simplicity of doing business. This was an improvement over two ranks compared to last year.
Problems that foreigners frequently face in Georgia
The importance of Georgia as a tourism hub is growing year after year.
Tbilisi TV Broadcasting Tower – Better than the Eiffel Tower?
It is planned to renovate the Tbilisi TV Broadcasting Tower, one of the landmarks in the capital.
Georgian Fusion Menu by The Biltmore Hotel Tbilisi
5,895,914 international visitors have visited Georgia between January and August of 2018. Compared to the previous year the number has increased by 12.2 per cent.
Advertising of gambling and lucrative games may become banned in Georgia
Advertising of gambling and lucrative games may become banned in Georgia. Those who violate the new rule would be fined GEL 10 000.
Lebanese café-lounge Beirut opens in Tbilisi
What is necessary to organize an unforgettable event? – Fun, emotions, lots of surprises, good music and delicious menu.
GEL Exchange Rate
Other Stories
Recently Toyota rolled out Global Campaign under this slogan that reflects the Olympic and Paralympic Spirit of Encouragement,
A couple from Switzerland combines Swiss tradition and technology with Georgian products. Their cheese is made in the Georgian mountains and sold in local stores and hotels.
It has been more than five years since the residents of Lilo village, near Tbilisi, cannot open their windows.
63 000 GEL was received by the Georgian Agro Export Group which is just a small part of the European Neighbourhood Programme for Agricultural and Rural development.
Georgian entrepreneur Guka Tavberidze, who runs his own business in the UK and does it quite well, has been invited by BBC
The grand opening of 7-star The Biltmore Hotel Tbilisi took place in Georgia’s capital on July 31.
DUSHETI, Georgia – The Georgian government and the World Bank will allocate USD 5.6 million (12 million GEL) to fund
A new Georgian clothing brand named Person has emerged in Georgian market.
Georgia is in the midst of an economic maelstrom, Euronews reports.
Situation at Georgia’s mineral water market is interesting: over the last year, the volume of export has grown by 56 percent. According to “GeoStat”, over $114 million worth of mineral water was sold
GEL Exchange