Dmitry Rogozin Says Roscosmos Is Watching Ukraine From Space 24/7

The director of Russia's space agency has taken to national TV to make claims about Russia's military capabilities as the country's invasion of Ukraine continues.

Speaking to state-owned television channel Russia-24, Dmitry Rogozin, director of Roscosmos, claimed that the country's new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile was superior to comparable U.S. technology and also said the space agency was providing satellite images of Ukraine to the Russian army as "intelligence support."

Regarding Russia's satellite capabilities, Rogozin claimed that Roscosmos was conducting satellite observation activities over Ukraine, including taking images of Ukrainian decision-making centers. He said that the satellite images are not published but are instead sent to the defense ministry.

Dmitry Rogozin
Dmitry Rogozin, director of Russia's space agency Roscosmos, seen at a space industry meeting in Sochi, Russia, in May, 2017. Rogozin is known for making outspoken comments in support of Russia's military action. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty

"The images, along with footage made by the Defense Ministry's devices, are meant to ensure information and intelligence support for the Russian Armed Forces' operation," he was quoted as saying per Russian news agency TASS. "We won't publish anything until the president announces an end to the operation."

Rogozin reportedly said that the surveillance was being carried out 24 hours a day.

However, the claims should be taken with caution. Bart Hendrix, a Brussels-based expert on Russia's space program, told Radio Free Europe in April that Russia is "practically blind in orbit" and operates just two optical reconnaissance satellites that were launched several years ago.

The country is thought to operate other types of observation satellite that operate via radar, but here too the country "lags behind NATO by an order of magnitude," Hendrix said.

In any case, Rogozin made more claims about Russia's military strength. Regarding Sarmat, Rogozin said according to TASS: "As for technical performance, what they have in their arsenal certainly lags behind what we have.

"They lag especially far behind in terms of the designed capabilities of our Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missile, which have been confirmed in the first test-launch."

The RS-28 Sarmat missile is a liquid fueled ICBM that has been in development by Russia and is reportedly ready to go into service in the fall of this year when the first serially-produced missiles are put on combat duty, according to Rogozin.

The missile has been developed at the Makeyev State Rocket Center which is part of Roscosmos.

It's been claimed that the rocket can deliver a 10-tonne potentially nuclear payload anywhere on Earth. According to the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the missile has a range of between 10,000 and 18,000 kilometers (6,200 and 11,200 miles) which at the upper limit is slightly less than half the circumference of Earth. This would permit a huge range from Russia over both the North and South Poles.

Rogozin did not specify a U.S. missile with which to compare Sarmat, though the U.S.' current land ICBM force consists of Minuteman III missiles with a maximum range of 13,000 kilometers (8,000 miles), according to CSIS.

ICBMs are launched from a ground- or submarine-based missile launcher hundreds of miles into space, before releasing their payloads which plummet back down to a target.

Between the start of Russia's invasion on February 24 up to July 3, there have been 4,889 civilian deaths in Ukraine, including 137 girls, 157 boys, and 41 children whose sex was not yet known, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.