Large Wagner convoy arrives at a camp in Belarus
By Christoph Koettl and Christiaan Tribert
A large convoy of vehicles carrying Wagner mercenary troops arrived at a military field camp in Belarus on Monday morning, in what is the private company’s biggest — and most public — showing since its failed rebellion in Russia last month.
Videos shared on social media and analyzed by The New York Times showed a long column of buses, cargo trucks and cars flying Russian and Wagner flags as it traveled from Russia along a highway toward Asipovichy, which is about 55 miles southeast of the Belarus capital, Minsk. Satellite images confirmed that the convoy had arrived at the camp, rapidly assembled during the last week of June, by noon Monday.
This weekend, the Times revealed an uptick of activity at the camp that seemed to foreshadow the arrival of more troops. The camp was set up after a short-lived revolt by the Wagner group in June against Russia’s military leadership. What was missing, until Monday, was the arrival of a larger group of people and vehicles.
On Friday, Belarus’ Ministry of Defense claimed that members of the Wagner group were already training some of its security forces, and released a video showing exercises at a military ground about seven miles from the camp.
The satellite image, collected at 11:12 a.m. Monday, corroborates a video filmed earlier Monday showing dozens of vehicles moving toward the camp on the M5 highway in Babruysk, about 40 miles southeast of the camp. The long column of vehicles includes construction vehicles and buses marked with the letter “Z” — a symbol for Russians who support the invasion of Ukraine — in addition to the flags. The Times confirmed the location of the video and that it is the same convoy seen in the satellite image.
The Belarusian monitoring group Hajun Project reported multiple convoys of Wagner troops moving in Belarus over the last days. Based on the number of tents, the Asipovichy camp would be able to house around 7,500 fighters, which is likely less than Wagner’s overall size.
Monday’s convoy included a large number of minivans and buses for personnel, in contrast to the previous days when the vehicles appear to have contained mostly materials.
After the June rebellion, President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus brokered a deal with Russia affording the mercenaries sanctuary in Belarus. However, the group’s whereabouts had remained a mystery until Monday, when many of them arrived in Belarus.