As someone that has been geolocation data from the Ukrainian-Russian war since late February, by now I thought I had seen it all.
At the beginning most of the videos depicted Russian movements in Ukraine, slowly the footage started showing shelling of several Ukranian big cities as the Russian troops attempted to quickly gain control of them and now, several weeks later, most of the data shows the utter devastation of the country. Occasionally I will (unfortunately) come across images that are too gruesome to describe, things that shouldn’t be happening but that are; clear evidence of crimes to be uncovered, investigated, and hopefully, trialled at The Hague, and therefore in need to be processed and analysed.
For that reason I tend to watch videos with a lot of caution; the cursor on top of the pause button ready to stop the footage, a paper nearby in case I need to cover part of the screen, and my head slightly turned to the side in case I need to quickly look away.
I cannot express how excited I was when I spotted cows in this video!
Here they were, these peaceful animals, clearly in very good condition (the ones that survived that is), so chunky, and staring at the camera. They made me smile for a moment and that is not easy when looking at the most recent Ukrainian footage.
So I decided to write the geolocation process of this video as I think we all need a smile at the moment.
This footage was shared originally on the 31st March 2022 with the title ““Освобождение коров по-русски” Харьковская обл.” which translates (according to google) to ““Liberation of cows in Russian” Kharkiv region.” (definitely sarcasm).
The footage, which is exactly 1 minute long, shows a field full of debris, damaged buildings and vehicles, and suddenly cows! The animals are seen just wandering around the area, a bit lost but, at first glance, all physically ok.
The video and the caption gives us already a few hints on where to start our search. The description indicates that this footage is from the Kharkiv region and the video shows, at the 0:08 minute mark, some sort of brand name.
We can also spot the cows towards the end so this is probably a dairy farm from the brand “Agromol” somewhere in Kharkiv Oblast.
There’s plenty of damaged buildings with very specific shapes and sizes which will be of the utmost importance when we need to verify our coordinates, but for now we can focus on getting to the location first.
With enough to get me started on Google Maps I simply typed “Kharkiv Agromol” and checked out the only result. Google knew exactly what I wanted and went straight to the location. Unfortunately for us these are not the buildings we are after.
Something was off here. Google was very certain of this result but I could immediately tell that there’s no way cows live here.
I clicked the “Ahromol” picture on the top left and checked out the gallery for more information.
From what I gathered this was probably a distribution centre with a small shop in front for the Agromol dairy products.
Time to change our strategy.
I went to google translate (always very useful) and typed “Kharkiv Agromol Cows” and translated it from English to Ukrainian. I like to keep it simple.
I then copy pasted the Ukrainian words and just googled them. I came upon the top result which looked quite promising. It seemed to be the official Agropol brand website so let’s check it out.
The website was obviously in Ukrainian so I used my Google Translate add-on to just translate it all to English so I could take a look around.
I immediately spotted the “Our Farms” section. Definitely what I was looking for!
On the farms section I just had to do a quick scroll down to spot an address. It’s actually quite lucky that they only seem to have one dairy farm so there’s not that many options to go through before finding the correct place.
So now that I know where the address is located in the website, I turned off the translation add-on so I could copy paste the exact wording in Ukrainian. It’s always preferable to use the native language instead of translations.
With the address I just got, I went back to Google Maps and searched for it.
The exact address was a bit too much for google to cope with so it decided to just show me the entire village of Shestakove, where the dairy farm is located.
If this was a bigger city I would have tried to play a bit with the address to get to the exact place but, even with satellite view, we can immediately spot the farm.
There it is, at the North of Shestakove, on the border of the town.
Now that we have the correct location we need to verify that the landmarks match the ones visible in the footage so we can get the exact coordinates of the person filming the video. Because there’s no photos or street view available we’ll have to just use the aerial view provided by the satellite imagery.
So here’s all the interesting features I could find in the original video on Youtube.
First we can see that there’s a long row of buildings on each side (red) and none at the end of the path (dark blue). On our left we have a building (green) with an entrance and another visible building next to it (pink). They might, or not, be part of the same structure.
The person then turns around and we see the rest of the building (green), and a bit further behind it, a huge framework taller than the previous buildings (orange). Towards the end we see these strange walls (baby blue) where the cows seem to be wandering around.
On our aerial view we can match all the same structures and landmarks.
We can see the long path of buildings (red) on each side of the road and an area in front with no structures (dark blue). We can see that the building next to us (green) is actually connected to the other (pink) one in an L shape. We can also spot the big structure (orange) and, in front of it, the strange long walls (baby blue).
We can conclude that the person filming was around the green building at the beginning of the video, turned around and walked towards the cows at the back.
Coordinates: 50.0796, 36.6201.
I was curious about those small spots North of the strange walls on the picture above so I decided to take a closer look.
I have an inkling that this was the cows’ accommodation when spending time outdoors. This would explain why they are coming from that area in the footage and why on two different satellite views, Google Maps and Apple Maps we see how the “spots” have moved around.
I can’t be sure on this theory but it’s quite likely that these are the cows’ outdoor feeding paddocks.
So in conclusion, this is the path I took in order to geolocate the footage showing a dairy farm in Shestakove, Kharkiv Oblast, Ukraine. Sometimes, even though Google is very certain about its result, we need to take a look around and find the information through other means.
This geolocation was, at first glance, a lot less visually impactful than the other ones I got accustomed to in recent weeks. There’s the obvious destruction of infrastructure but there’s no ongoing fires, perished animals or people, or even blood smeared around. Unfortunately that is just at first glance. This farm had over 1000 cows and many died with either the explosion or due to the debris. There was absolutely no signs of military personnel or equipment nearby and, I’m quite sure, the cows were not armed with kalachnikovs. So why did the Russian army bombed a dairy farm? Unfortunately that answer might reside in a starvation strategy, something already that the Russian government is familiar with. I can’t really comment on something I do not know. What I do know is that no cows had to die.
I hope this tutorial on how to geolocate a Youtube video filmed in Ukraine was useful.
Thank you for reading.