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What we know about the helicopter attack on an oil depot inside Russia

Russia accuses Ukraine of conducting an air strike against an oil depot in Belgorod. This Russian city is close to the Ukrainian border.

This is the first accusation of an Ukrainian air strike on Russian soil, since the war between these two countries started on 24 February.

Image The location of the oil depot is in Belgorod. It is close to the border with Ukraine

Many videos showing an air strike and the burning of a depot have been widely shared on social media.

On the scene


The video of an immense fire seems to have been captured at the oil depot.

It is located in the heart of the city, near the residential areas.

Image: The depot houses an oil tank and is located in the heart of Belgorod. There are many residential areas around it. Pic via Google Maps

The video is confirmed by a Google Map streetview which shows the location of the electric lines, lights and edge of the building.

Image: We can verify the location of the video by picking out landmarks. Pic by Google Maps

You can hear the man filming saying “An explosion.” The neighbours, an oil depot, have exploded. These buggers have no safety measures in place. They are slowly going out of control.

“Someone said that the explosion was too weak, but it is.”

The moment to attack

An online CCTV video clip appears to capture the moment of the attack.

As indicated by the white square, the camera is placed outside a large blue-roofed building. Geolocating the footage can be done by using a transmission tower or a white building with an identifiable roof.

Image: The camera that captured the attack was on a building located north of the depot. Pic from Google Maps

The video shows what appears like two helicopters flying overhead, one after another.

To make it easier to spot, we zoomed in on the helicopter.

Image You can see what looks like a helicopter in this video.

The depot is lit up with bright lights that appear to be artillery firing, which are followed by bright flashes of light as if there was an explosion.

This clip shows that moment.

In the background, you can hear a woman saying “Boy oh! They have all fled, poor dogs. The first has been subject to a series of explosions and then the second.

How to identify helicopters and identify the pilot

This video was shot much further from the depot.

Google Maps can help you find a brightly colored building or one with an unusual design to confirm the location of the video.

Image: This clip is located near two distinct houses. Pic from Google Maps

This video shows us the best view of the helicopters as they fly southwest towards the Ukrainian border.

Sky News was confirmed by two defence analysts and an aircraft researcher that the helicopters are Mi-24s. The video does not show the helicopters being flown by Russian or Ukrainian forces.

This video screenshot allows us to compare the helicopter and a Mi-24.

Image If you compare this photo of a Mi-24 helicopter to the one on the left, it’s clear that they have a very similar shape

Another piece of information is provided by the video. Janes is a defense intelligence provider that provides analysts. They explain: “The helicopters flew very low to avoid radar detection.”

Some potential clues to the model of the helicopters may also be provided by unverified images that show rocket parts found on the ground at Belgorod.

Janes analysts said that the parts are 80mm S-8 unguided rockets. They launch from 20-round B-8 family launchers. These launchers are common for Mi-24s.

Joseph Dempsey is an aircraft researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. He warned that both sides can use this type of rocket.

He stated that he believed the munitions, especially unguided rockets, were primarily Soviet-made and are still in use with both Russia (and Ukraine).

What can you learn from these videos?

Although the videos do show an attack on helicopters, they cannot be used to prove whether or not the aircraft were operated by Ukraine.

Russia’s and Ukraine’s versions of events

Vyacheslav Gladkov, Russia’s regional governor, said that two Ukrainian military helicopters crashed into the depot at 6 a.m. local time (5:00 GMT) Friday.

Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations reported that two employees at the depot were hurt.

Oleksiy Dailov, Ukraine’s top security officer, stated on national television that “For some reason, they claim that we did it.” However, according to our information, this is not the truth.

Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, spokesman for the Ukrainian defense ministry, said that he wouldn’t confirm or deny any role for Ukraine.


Data and Forensics

team is a multi-skilled unit dedicated to providing transparent journalism from Sky News. We gather, analyse and visualise data to tell data-driven stories. We combine traditional reporting skills with advanced analysis of satellite images, social media and other open source information. Through multimedia storytelling we aim to better explain the world while also showing how our journalism is done.

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