Satellite images obtained by Yle show that Russia has been transferring anti-aircraft missiles away from St Petersburg.
Satellite images obtained by Yle indicate that Russia has been moving a large number of anti-aircraft missiles toward Ukraine, including from as far away as St. Petersburg, one of the most crucial areas for Russian air defence.
Satellite images reveal that both mobile firing platforms and missiles disappeared during the summer from a base in the Zelenogorsk (Terijoki) area on the Karelian Isthmus, northwest of St Petersburg, among others.
The transfer of equipment has not previously been publicly reported in Russia or western countries.
St Petersburg—Russia’s second-most important city—has long been surrounded by a protective ring of 14 anti-aircraft missile bases. Now several of them stand empty.
“Based on the pictures, four anti-aircraft bases have been emptied of equipment,” military expert Maj. (Ret.) Marko Eklund told Yle.
Eklund, who has monitored the Russian armed forces for more than 20 years, analysed the satellite images at Yle’s request.
This map shows anti-aircraft missile batteries around St Petersburg, which has a population of 5.5 million, the same size as Finland.
In addition to the completely emptied bases, anti-aircraft missile equipment has been moved from other bases around St Petersburg during the summer, most likely toward Ukraine.
According to Eklund, the transfer of equipment is unlikely to have significantly weakened St Petersburg’s air defences, because the armament that has been removed is its oldest, so Russia may no longer necessarily need it for defensive purposes.
In its Ukraine war, even old anti-aircraft missiles still have a use, though, as Russia is running short of modern precision weapons.
Two batteries disappear SW of St Petersburg
Yle has acquired most of the satellite images from commercial operators, complementing them with images from the Google Earth Pro app. The latest images are from August and September.
The most obvious change can be seen to the southwest of St Petersburg. There, two entire batteries have been emptied.
The pair of images below shows that all missile firing platforms have been removed from a missile battery near the village of Kerstovo. In the first picture, a row of 12 of them can be seen in the upper right-hand corner.
The first picture is from a year ago and the latest one is from early September. You can compare images by sliding the vertical bar between the images. The red lines denote areas of particular interest.