Satellite images analyzed by The New York Times showed increased activity this weekend at a military camp in Belarus, including the arrival of vehicles that resemble those used by the Russian mercenary group Wagner.
More than a dozen vehicles, including large civilian trucks, vans and cars, appear to have arrived on Saturday and Sunday at a former military base in Asipovichy, which is about 55 miles southeast of Minsk, the capital. The vehicles are the same types as those recently seen driving in large convoys, some flying Wagner flags.
The whereabouts of the Wagner mercenaries have been something of a mystery since the group, which fought in Ukraine on behalf of Russia, rose up last month against the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. To end the short-lived rebellion, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus brokered an agreement in which the mercenaries would be given refuge in Belarus.
The satellite images do not conclusively prove that Wagner forces are at the camp, but reinforce it statements of The allies of Ukraine that some Wagner troops have reached Belarus. The British Ministry of Defense said on Sunday that “at least a small contingent of Wagner fighters has arrived at a camp in Belarus”, although it did not specify the location of the camp. On Saturday, a Polish official said some Wagner fighters arrived in Belarus.
After the Wagner rebellion was put down, there was a flurry of activity at the forward base near Asipovichy, and a field camp with over 300 large military tents was in place by the end of June. But the camp has sat largely empty for the past two weeks, leaving it unclear whether the soldiers will actually move there.
The new images show a clear increase in activity. A satellite image from Sunday shows several cargo trucks, and possibly buses, near the camp’s garages, where previously there were no large vehicles.
Multiple pick-ups, military vehicles, and what appears to be a boxy Soviet-era minivan known as bukhankaas well as a small group of people, could also be seen near the tents.
The first cargo truck appeared in satellite images at the camp on Thursday afternoon. On Saturday, an image from geospatial intelligence company BlackSky shows the arrival of more trucks and other vehicles. More vehicles arrived on Sunday.
Videos posted to Telegram on Saturday and Sunday of long columns of pickup trucks, minivans and cargo trucks appeared to indicate that Wagner troops were on the move. In one video, filmed on a highway south of the Russian city of Vorenzeh, vehicles were flying Russian and Wagner flags. Another one video showed two Belarusian police cars in a convoy, suggesting that the vehicles were traveling within Belarus. The vehicles seen in the various videos appear to have license plates from Russia or Russian-controlled regions in eastern Ukraine.
The videos indicate that multiple convoys were on the road, each consisting of dozens of vehicles. As of Sunday morning, despite multiple images from the base that day, the vast majority of those vehicles were nowhere to be seen at the Asipovichy camp. It could not be determined if any were inside the camp’s garages.