July 21, 2024

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Wagner: Satellite imagery reveals Belarus camp arrival

Wagner: Satellite imagery reveals Belarus camp arrival

  • Written by Daniel Palumbo and Adam Robinson
  • BBC Check

photo caption,

Convoys of vehicles carrying Wagner flags were also spotted heading towards Belarus

New satellite images reveal that a large convoy of suspected Wagner fighters has arrived from Russia at a new camp in Belarus.

BBC Verify analysis shows dozens of vehicles entering the camp at Tsel, an abandoned military base in southern Belarus – 64 miles (103 kilometers) from the capital, Minsk.

What do the latest satellite images show?

The camp first emerged shortly after an agreement was reached to end the Wagner Rebellion against the Russian army in late June. Part of the agreement reportedly included agreement for Wagner’s forces to move to Belarus.

The latest photos indicate that Wagner has now begun moving individuals in large numbers.

Previous satellite imagery obtained by BBC Verify showed that 300 tents were erected in Tsel over a two-week period.

Meanwhile, Wagner-linked channels on Telegram – a popular social messaging platform – have posted footage purporting to show the group’s flags being lowered at its main training base in Molkino, in Russia’s southern Krasnodar Territory.

Flags are sometimes lowered when a military base is closed.

On Tuesday, the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko – an ally of Russia – said Wagner was “currently in their camps” inside the country.

“If Belarus needs them, we will immediately call on the Wagner PMC to defend the nation,” Lukashenko said.

What route did the Wagner convoy take?

Another photo taken the same day shows a convoy arriving at the camp.

Around the same time, a video posted on social media showed a group of vehicles with Russian and Wagner flags driving towards Zell on the same highway.

The BBC located the footage on the M5 motorway heading north outside the city of Babruysk, about 44 miles (70 km) southeast of Zell.

Long convoys of vehicles carrying Wagner flags have also been recorded inside Russia heading towards Belarus.

How many troops were transferred?

It is currently unclear how many troops will be transferred to Cell.

Belarusian investigative journalism outlet Hayun estimates that a total of 100 units – cars, trucks and buses – and about 600 people may have traveled to Tsel.

BBC Verify counted 31 large vehicles – possibly lorries – in the footage showing the convoy arriving in Zeil on Monday, although many may have been covered in trees.

In an address to the Russian nation on June 26—after the insurgency ended—President Vladimir Putin offered the Wagner fighters the choice of signing contracts directly with the Russian Defense Ministry, or going to Belarus with leader Yevgeny Prigozhin.