Ukraine has posted a cache of uncensored satellite images from Google Maps, which shows some of Russia’s many military sites. It claims Google has “opened access to Russia’s military and strategic facilities”, but the tech giant has denied it.
The photos have been posted on Twitter by ArmedForcesUkr – an unverified handle but cited several times by the official Ukrainian Ministry of Defence. An English translation of the tweet is also going viral.
⚡️GOOGLE MAPS ВІДКРИВ ДОСТУП ДО ВІЙСЬКОВИХ ТА СТРАТЕГІЧНИХ ОБ’ЄКТІВ РОСІЇ.
Тепер кожен може побачити різноманітні російські пускові установки, шахти міжконтинентальних балістичних ракет, командні пункти та секретні полігони з роздільною здатністю близько до 0,5 метра на піксель. pic.twitter.com/i75wR8Efwo
— Armed Forces 🇺🇦 (@ArmedForcesUkr) April 18, 2022
The photos show the site of Russia’s decrepit aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, a nuclear weapons storage base in Murmansk, Russia’s advanced Su-57 fighter jet and air bases in strategic regions in Kurss and Kamchatka, according to Daily Mail.
The post further claimed that the images are no longer blurred, and visible at maximum resolution of about 0.5 metres per pixel – a move seen as the tech giant’s support to Ukraine.
But a Google spokesperson told The Verge that it hasn’t made changes to how it censors satellite imagery of Russia.
“We haven’t made any blurring changes to our satellite imagery in Russia,” the spokesperson said in an email response to The Verge when it reached out.
Several key military installations of the United Kingdom are also visible on Google Maps, such as the Royal Navy’s flagship aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth in its home port of Portsmouth.
However, sensitive satellite images like these are not updated for years, which make some social media users wonder if warships seen in photos tweeted by Ukraine “are very different”.
Google has taken some action against Russia since it invaded Ukraine on February 24. These include pausing ad sales, cutting off access to Google Pay for some users and restricting ads on accounts of Russian content creators. The curbs are in line with the sanctions imposed by the United States and its western allies.