On the edge of war

Entry type: Single project

Country/area: United Kingdom

Publishing organisation: Thomson Reuters

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 2022-01-26

Language: English

Authors: Prasanta Kumar Dutta, Samuel Granados and Michael Ovaska


The Reuters graphics team publishes visual stories and data visualisations. The team typically cover all areas of the news, with content ranging from climate change to financial markets. Many of the pieces are conceptualised, researched, and produced by the graphics team.

Project description:

By early January 2022, the Kremlin had massed some 100,000 troops around Ukraine’s borders, preparations that foreshadowed a calculated plan to invade and overwhelm the Ukrainian government’s defenders. Reuters used satellite imagery to show the scale of Moscow’s logistical expansion along the border, measured how the Ukrainian defence forces compared to Russia’s military capacity and outlined the likeliest routes Russian ground troops would take to partially control or fully occupy Ukraine.

Impact reached:

Working with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the project was one of the first to outline the likeliest scenarios for military invasion, how those strategies were shaped by Ukraine’s specific geographic and seasonal conditions and how they matched up to presumed Russian goals. The piece was shared widely by political and military analysts and was very popular on both social media and Reuters’ platforms.

Techniques/technologies used:

Mapping and analysis were produced in QGIS. Satellite imagery was sourced through various providers and analysed. Georeferenced events data was compiled and visualised on custom vector maps. Adobe’s creative suite was used for much of the final styling of graphics before being placed as components in the web page.

Context about the project:

With the signs all pointing in one direction towards a Russian invasion by the time this project published, one of our primary goals was to look beyond the first shots fired and clearly trace the various scenarios and goals Moscow may follow in its military strategy. This piece formed the basis of several later pieces, evaluating the success of Ukraine’s defences to foil those military goals and the weapons and strategy that stymied them.

What can other journalists learn from this project?

In preparing readers for what military scenarios were likeliest, we distinguished our piece outside the dominant political narrative of will they/won’t they narratives and various threats and warnings between Moscow and the West. Our readers showed their appreciation for that analytical perspective and the clear presentation of the information in graphics.

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