According to commercial satellite imagery and open-source reporting, Moscow dismantled tents at alleged filtration sites in the southern Donetsk Oblast region, at the Russian Veselo-Voznesenka border checkpoint, and along the M-2 Highway between the towns of Kharkiv and Belgorod in Russia likely due to the decline in displaced civilian movement (as evidenced in declining vehicle activity) and “filtration” needs through these areas.
In contrast, imagery of purported filtration sites at the Logachevka border checkpoint in Belgorod Oblast and the three border crossing stations in Crimea have not shown similar reductions in activity. Rather, as of September 2022, tents remained intact at Logachevka and new infrastructure expansions appeared at the Crimean checkpoints. Moscow likely focused and reallocated resources to filtration sites where they expected an increasing civilian flux from the next stages of the conflict.
In analyzing the Russian filtration system used currently in the Russia-Ukraine War, the Kremlin's narrative regarding the nature of the system and the processes employed on Ukrainian civilians are unsurprisingly at odds with the West. Through the analysis of commercial satellite imagery and open-source reporting on ten filtration sites, the Global Disinformation Lab (GDIL) offers evidence to counter a senior Russian official's denial of the existence of filtration sites at a United Nations Security Council Meeting. GDIL identified six new potential filtration sites at or near checkpoints into Russia or Russian-occupied Ukraine, monitored filtration activity at the six sites as well as at four filtration sites in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine that were previously identified by the Conflict Observatory, and evaluated how regional filtration activity trends related to anticipated, active, or settled conflict areas. In monitoring site filtration activity, we discovered a dismantling of tents and/or a decline in vehicular activity at four previously identified filtration sites in Donetsk Oblast and at two possible filtration sites in the Rostov and Belgorod Oblasts in Russia. In contrast, we observed a continued use of tents and a high level of vehicle activity at another possible filtration site at the Logachevka border checkpoint in Belgorod Oblast and an expansion of alleged filtration site infrastructure at three Crimean border crossings. In areas of dismantled tents and/or decreasing vehicle activity, the Kremlin likely either saw a steady decline or anticipated a reduction in civilian movement, and thus, a reduced need for filtration operations. Based on this pattern, we assess with moderate confidence that Moscow focuses and reallocates resources to filtration sites expected to have more utility in the next stages of the conflict, where they anticipate shifts in civilian flows. To make these judgments, we compared imagery of filtration sites throughout the conflict and analyzed changes in physical infrastructure (e.g., permanent buildings, tents, and roads), vehicular activity (e.g., parked vehicles, types of vehicles, and vehicle queues), human queuing, considered the site's proximity to areas of intense fighting, and reviewed open-source reporting to corroborate our claims.
About The Authors
Undergraduate Student at The University of Texas, Task Team Leader at the Global Disinformation Lab
Undergraduate Student at the University of Texas, Task Team Leader at the Global Disinformation Lab
Fellow at the Global (Dis)Information Lab & Senior Research Program Manager at the Intelligence Studies Project