Satellite images, analyzed by The New York Times, showed increased activity this weekend at a military field 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 has been something of a mystery since the group, which had been fighting in Ukraine on behalf of Russia, rose up last month against the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. To end the short-lived revolt, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus brokered a deal in which the mercenaries would be given sanctuary in Belarus.
The satellite images do not conclusively prove that Wagner forces are at the camp, but bolster statements by Ukraine’s allies that some Wagner troops have reached Belarus. The British Ministry of Defense said on Sunday that “at least a small contingent of Wagner fighters have 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 had arrived in Belarus.
After the Wagner mutiny was halted, there was a flurry of activity at the former base near Asipovichy, and a field camp with more than 300 large military tents was in place by the end of June. But the camp sat mostly empty for the past two weeks, leaving it unclear whether the troops would actually move there.
The new images show a clear uptick in activity. A satellite image from Sunday shows multiple cargo trucks, and possibly buses, near the camp’s garages, where there had previously been no large vehicles.
Multiple pickup trucks, military vehicles, and what appears to be a boxy Soviet-era minivan known as a bukhanka, as well as a small group of people, could also be seen near the tents.
The first cargo truck appeared in satellite imagery at the camp on Thursday afternoon. On Saturday, an image from the geospatial intelligence company BlackSky shows the arrival of more trucks and other vehicles. Additional vehicles arrived on Sunday.
Vehicles and what appears to be troops are seen at the field camp on Sunday.Credit…Maxar
Videos posted to Telegram on Saturday and Sunday of long columns of pickups, 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 video showed two Belarusian police cars in a convoy, suggesting the vehicles were driving 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 multiple convoys were on the road, each consisting of dozens of vehicles. As of Sunday morning, despite multiple images of the base that day, the vast majority of those vehicles were not visible at the Asipovichy camp. It could not be determined whether any were inside the camp’s garages.