Geolocating the Ambush on the Sky News Team in Ukraine
A team of Sky News journalists were driving East on Highway M06 (E40) towards Kyiv when they were ambushed near Stoyanka at (50.44682358399391, 30.234667607884884). The team of journalists initially thought they came under fire by Ukrainian forces but were later told that the attack was committed by a Russian saboteur squad. While it is plausible that Russian forces are responsible for the attack, the area was also heavily patrolled by Ukrainian military forces and was surrounded by several Ukrainian checkpoints. This product utilizes open-source information to geolocate and track the Sky News team’s movements surrounding the attack and attempts to further attribute the ambush.
On February 28, 2022, Sky News chief correspondent Stuart Ramsay and his team attempted to drive to Bucha, just northwest of Kyiv, to report on the evolving frontlines of battle. However, after realizing the rapidly devolving threat situation in the region, the team decided to return to Kyiv. Roads that had previously been safe to drive were closed off by fighting and the team was forced to find a new way back. It was at this point that they were ambushed and wounded by direct small arms fire. This event was captured by the team’s cameraman, Richie Mockler, who took two rounds to his body armor in the process. Stuart also took a bullet to the lower back during the escape.
Full footage from the attack, as well as supplemental photographs, can be seen in Sky New’s subsequent article. Screenshots from the video allow us to accurately geolocate where this ambush occurred and where the team was able to retreat to.
Identifying General Area
We know that the team was originally attempting to travel from Kyiv to Bucha, but was turned around at some point to return to Kyiv. This narrows our search to this general area.
Our first lead can be found in one of the photos provided by the team, showing a road sign that had been painted over in an attempt to confuse Russian forces. We were able to pinpoint this location with the help of a few subtle clues.
The white portion of the sign says, “ветеринарна клініка - Надійні Руки”, which translates to “Veterinarian Clinic - Reliable Hands” with an arrow pointed to the right.
After searching for “Надійні Руки” on Google, we came across this animal hospital in Horenychi.
In the background of the photo, we can also make out the pink letters “RY KA”. After a quick search on the map, we find that there is a large “Mary Kay” warehouse nearby with the same pink letters.
This places our road sign at (50.446071797171996, 30.225766409641658), or just south of Stoyanka.
Identifying Direction of Travel
The video begins with the car driving over a partially destroyed bridge. A screenshot of the road gives us some easily identifiable markers. First, we can make out what appears to be two gas stations across the street from each other.
After going back to the map, we can see that the “Marshal” gas station is across the street from the “Advantage7” gas station.
By viewing photos on the Google review pages for each business, we are able to identify “Marshal” as the green and red sign on the left of the road. Likewise, we can place the “Advantage7” building on the right with the green and white wavy pattern.
We are now able to determine that the team was driving East on Highway M06 (E40) back towards Kyiv and the ambush happened at roughly (50.44682358399391, 30.234667607884884).
We can further confirm this assertion by identifying the highlighted yellow billboard on the right side of the road.
This same billboard can also be seen on a Google street view from 2020.
Identifying Route of Retreat
We also know that the team ran back in the direction that they came from and took shelter in a factory warehouse. The gate that they run in appears to be the entrance to a factory unit with multiple businesses.
Also seen here on a 2019 Google street view.
Additionally, a screenshot taken later in the video clearly shows a trailer in the background displaying the letters EKOL.
This matches up directly with a truck found on pictures posted on the Google business page for “EKOL Logistics Ukraine”.
The team however did not end up in the EKOL building. Footage taken inside the building shows three distinct bay doors and what appears to be auto mechanic equipment.
These bay doors match the doors of the “Schwarzmueller Ukraine”, an auto mechanic service located directly next to the EKOL warehouse.
Taking a step back, we can see that the shooting comes from the area around the gas stations, putting the alleged Russian saboteurs between the journalist team and Kyiv. This is interesting considering the team met multiple Ukrainian checkpoints further away from the capital city while en route to Bucha. This either means that the Russians were able to slip behind enemy lines operating clandestinely, or it was actually Ukrainians who mistook the Sky News team as an incoming threat and opened fire- both very possible.
The Sky News team did initially believe that it was soldiers at a Ukrainian checkpoint who were mistakenly shooting at their vehicle and attempted to call out and identify themselves as journalists. The team was later told by Ukrainian security forces that it was a “saboteur Russian reconnaissance squad” who were targeting them. At this time, however, it is unclear who truly fired the shots at the journalists.
Interestingly, just down the road is a Ukrainian Police post. Given how many Ukrainian checkpoints the team encountered prior to this attack, it is possible that this police post was used as another checkpoint on the road to Kyiv.
According to LiveUAMap.com, hidden in the woods just beyond the point of attack is a Ukrainian Foreign Intelligence Service (SZR) complex. Undoubtedly a prime target for Russian saboteurs and also a highly defended position by Ukrainian forces.
While it may be easy to cast this incident as another yet another example of heavy-handed Russians targeting noncombatants (of which there are many), we cannot fully discount the possibility that this attack came from Ukrainian forces - nervously awaiting an offensive against the SZR complex and Kyiv. This particular area, in an ever-evolving tactical landscape, holds strategic importance to both sides, further complicating attribution. If nothing else, this incident underscores the danger that civilians, journalists, and other noncombatants face in active warzones.