Friday, September 08, 2023

Geolocating General Surovikin

The investigative journalists at Bellingcat have been developing some important tools and methodologies for geolocating images. On Wednesday they applied their investigative geolocating powers to identify the location of General Sergey Surovikin.

On September 4th a photograph of Surovikin was posted online, accompanied by the message "General Surovikin has emerged. He’s alive and well, home with his family in Moscow". Surovikin, who had been a close associate of the Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, had not been seen in public since the beginning of the Wagner mutiny in June. His disappearance had led to speculation that he had either been arrested or 'disposed of' by Russian authorities.

In order to determine the fate of Surovikin it is necessary to authenticate the date of the photograph, where it was taken, and who is actually in the picture. The BBC's Verify team determined that there was a 'high probability' that the people in the photo were Surovikin and his wife and that the picture had not appeared before. All that remained therefore was to determine where the photo was taken.

In Geolocating Russia’s Disgraced General Surovikin Bellingcat explains how the 'crowd' was able to geolocate the photograph based on the visual clues in the published picture. Thanks to a number of investigators and Twitter users the correct location in the photograph was narrowed down to the Terrazza restaurant in an elite neighborhood of Moscow, close to where Surovikin has a home.

Thanks to the work of the BBC and a number of independent investigators it appears that Surovikin is indeed still alive in Moscow. However, as Bellingcat reports, "key questions as to his fate and current standing remain unanswered".

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