Vovchansk Leveled in One Month (Satellite Data)

Satellite images reveal the scale of the destruction but do not convey the experiences of the people.

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"Hurry up, it will hit the gates while you're closing them?"

Starting from May 10, an active evacuation of citizens took place in Vovchansk. The police, volunteers, and State Emergency Service evacuated residents who wished to leave. With the beginning of the Russian offensive in Kharkiv region, the city found itself on the front line of clashes. Occupiers dropped dozens of guided aerial bombs (KABs) on Vovchansk daily and fired S-300 missiles, artillery, and mortars.

The distance from Vovchansk to Kharkiv is 73.8 km, where most of the city’s residents were taken.

A report from "Hromadske" on May 12 shows the evacuation of Vovchansk residents. Some refused to leave their homes despite the shelling overhead. Others had pets, livestock, and property they didn't want to abandon. Some didn't know where to go, while others didn't care who controlled the city, they just wanted to stay home.

In the following weeks, Vovchansk turned into complete ruins. Whether those who stayed survived is unknown.

It's estimated that during May, over 2,000 buildings in Vovchansk were completely or partially destroyed.

Damaged buildings in Vovchansk, May 2024

Calculations based on Sentinel-1 satellite imagery
Calculations based on Sentinel-1 satellite imagery

We overlaid a layer with buildings on the heat map of damage in the city, obtained through the analysis of Sentinel-1 satellite images. In areas of significant damage, there are more than 2,000 buildings. They are likely completely or partially destroyed. This is approximately half of the city.

To detect the destruction, we used an algorithm proposed by Corey Scher (CUNY Graduate Center) and Jamon Van Den Hoek (Oregon State University), which we learned about from a Washington Post article on the scale of destruction in Gaza.

We had previously used this algorithm to determine the damage in Avdiivka in October 2023.

Before the war, Vovchansk had a population of 18,000. In 2023, about 3,500 people lived there. According to Oleh Syniehubov, the head of the Kharkiv Regional Military Administration, as of May 2024, no more than a hundred residents remained in the city. Staying here means signing one's death warrant.

On May 16, Russians shot at a car with local residents who were trying to leave, as reported by Novynarnia, citing the Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor's Office.

This article was originally written in Ukrainian. It has been translated into English using AI tools such as DeepL, ChatGPT, and Grammarly. If you encounter an error that requires immediate attention, please inform us via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Your understanding and support are appreciated.

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