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Geolocation Case Study: Video Evidence and Street view

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Methods Showcase: Video Evidence of Building exteriors

School No. 15. Heavy Damage.

This piece is the second in our Geolocation Showcase series. In this case, analysts used foliage, weather, and architectural features to identify an educational facility and establish a timeframe within which it was destroyed. This method, which relies on video or images taken from outside the building, is particularly common for heavily damaged buildings. Because it is not safe to enter buildings with heavy structural damage, video content identifying heavy damage often takes the form of panning videos, commonly with voiceover (which, one must note cannot be assumed to be accurate without confirmation) describing the scene. Geolocations based on building exteriors and identifiable foliage are, therefore, a mainstay of facilities damage geolocation.

The Destruction of School 15

Two short video clips, depicting the same damaged building from different angles, were posted to the Telegram channel “Мариуполь сейчас,” or “MariupolNow,” on 22 April 2022. The videos were captioned “15 школа,” which translates to “School 15.” Those with Telegram access can view the video at “”  The origins of the video are unknown, as is the identity of the person speaking in them. UDVL researchers have concluded that both videos depict damage sustained by School 15 in Mariupol, Ukraine. 


Figure One: A frame from Video One


The first video clip is a slow pan over the long front facade of a two-story building from approximately 40 feet away from the front entrance door. White and blue paint is visible on the building sections where the external cladding is still attached, although much of the middle section of the building has been damaged down to the inner concrete walls. The ground outside of the building is rough mud, and the trees visible to the cameraman’s left and right are missing branches and bare of leaves. Building rubble is visible both in front of the building and strewn over a large area surrounding it, and most windows are shattered. Sections of the identifiable blue and white cladding are visible on the ground as far as 40 feet from the structure. The deformed metal framework of the entryway and the concrete surrounding it appear to be darkened, perhaps by fire damage. The most noticeable defining feature is visible at 00:10, when the camera pans over a small set of bleachers with blue bucket seats. The cameraperson describes the scene in Ukrainian.


The second video clip shows what the caption indicates to be the same building as the first clip, this time from circa 75 feet away from the structure. This video starts not from the middle of the building but facing the right corner; the cameraperson walks parallel to the building, circa 75 feet away from it, towards the center. From 00:10-00:13, the blue bleachers are again visible. The damage to the facade and the surrounding rubble is consistent with that depicted in the first video.  The cameraperson again describes the scene in Ukrainian.

Figure Two: A frame from Video Two

Other Sources and Metadata Analysis

Researchers were unable to find these videos posted anywhere outside of the Telegram channel where they were originally found. Researchers were also unable to find further images and videos of or other references to the incident. 

Researchers uploaded the video clips to InVID WeVerify, using both its metadata analysis function and its keyframe reverse image search tool. The metadata analyses did not reveal any further identifying information, and none of the keyframes for either video clip returned any results in a reverse image search. It is possible that metadata had been scrubbed from the videos prior to being posted by the operators of the MariupolNow account. This data may also have been lost in the file transfer or posting processes. 


The objective of a geolocation of this site is to verify whether the damaged building shown in the Telegram videos captioned “15 школа” is indeed School 15 in Mariupol. As such, researchers were not concerned with identifying the date, time, or type of strike that caused the damage, but with confirming the location of the video’s claim. 

The primary tool used to geolocate School 15 was Google Maps, as it provides one of the highest-available levels of definition since PlanetLabs terminated its imaging over Ukraine. A preliminary search of “15 школа” in Google Maps returned the location illustrated in Figure 1.  The shape of the satellite image of the school was not decisive proof alone, but the Google Maps location also contains three snapshot locations with 360-degree imaging. All three snapshots were uploaded by the user “troleybys” in July of 2020. From these images, researchers were able to draw the following conclusions: 

Figure Three: A satellite image of School 15

The overhead satellite location (Figure 3) returned for a search of “15 школа” is highly likely to be accurate. A southwest-facing view within the snapshot located directly in front of the main entrance to the building shows an open field in the distance, with fencing and grass consistent with a sports field; the overhead satellite image confirms that there is a track and field pitch located to the east of the building, and the shadow of the fencing is visible.

The building depicted in the Telegram videos is most likely School 15. The main object of reference used to confirm this geolocation was the set of blue bleachers. The snapshot image displays two sets of bleachers, one on either side of the main path leading to the school, and both Telegram videos clearly show the eastern bleacher set. In the first video, at 00:03 seconds, the metal frame of the western bleachers is visible through the trees, missing its seats, but clearly recognizable as the same set seen on Google Maps. The western set of bleachers is only faintly visible in satellite image, the eastern one being hidden almost entirely by trees, but the snapshot image clearly shows them in the expected locations. Furthermore, the vantage points of each video clip are consistent with the paths shown on the satellite image (see Figure 4.) 

Figure Four: Satellite image with estimated locations of landmarks and vantage points

Time and Date

Thorough reverse image searching and metadata analysis did not reveal that the videos had been uploaded anywhere other than Telegram, or at any date or time earlier than April 22, when they were posted to the channel. A weather analysis of the conditions over Mariupol in the days prior to the video’s posting was not conclusive.

Figure Six: A chart showing weather in Mariupol from April 18th to April 22nd, 2022

The conditions in the two videos show partly cloudy skies and muddy soil. Therefore, researchers predict that the videos were likely to have been recorded in the afternoon of April 20, as this is the most recent date prior to uploading that logs a partly cloudy period following rain. There are few to no shadows visible in either video, making a time-of-day estimate impossible. It is also important to note that there is no guarantee that the videos were filmed within any specific time window prior to uploading, so the one-week weather analysis cannot be applied with any significant degree of certainty.

The date upon which the videos were uploaded to Telegram confirms that the damage must have occurred prior to April 22, 2022, when the videos were posted. A UNICEF article dated 13 September, 2021, shows images of students and teachers at School 15, implying that damages must have occurred after that date. Satellite imagery of the school’s location, listed by Google as having been conducted by Maxar in 2022, does not reveal any visible damage, but it is impossible to determine the exact date of imaging. Given the current state of the conflict, it is reasonable to assume that damages occurred after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, but the aforementioned date parameters form the closest definitive window that researchers were able to prove.


Researchers were able to conclude with a high degree of confidence that the videos in question do indeed depict School 15 in Mariupol, and that the location found for School 15 on Google Maps is accurate. Time and date of recording cannot be precisely identified, but the date of uploading confirms that the damages to School 15 occurred between 1 January and 22 April, 2022. 

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