Satellite Images Show Wagner Camp In Belarus Being Dismantled
Images obtained by RFE/RL show that a suspected tent camp thought to be occupied by troops from Russia's Wagner mercenary group near the Belarusian village of Tsel is being dismantled.
The images, taken by Planet Labs on August 23, show that of 273 specialized military tents -- each of which houses up to 20 people -- for personnel, 101 had been dismantled. That would mean space for just over 2,000 Wagner fighters would have been eliminated. Some 5,000 troops were thought to have been settled at the site.
It was not immediately clear where the tents and the Wagner fighters are being moved to.
Images from Planet Labs appear to show that the process of dismantling the camp most likely started on August 1. The changes appear to affect only housing, with only an insignificant decrease in military equipment at the site, the images showed.
Telegram channels linked to Wagner say some of the group's fighters in Belarus left for Russia on vacation, while some were transferred to operations in Africa.
However, it could be also possible that some Wagner fighters were relocated to other sites within Belarus as Planet Labs' previous images showed apparent trenches being dug out on the territory of the Repishcha military exercise field, located 15 kilometers from Tsel.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in late July that up to 100 Wagner fighters might have been transferred to western Belarus, close to the Polish town of Suwalki, which sits on what is known as the Suwalki Corridor -- an 80-kilometer-long stretch that is NATO's only land connection with its Baltic members Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.
The authoritarian leader of Belarus, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, denied Morawiecki's accusation.
The latest images from Planet Labs came the same day as Russian aviation officials said Wagner's founder and leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was on a passenger list of a plane that crashed in Russia's western Tver region, some 270 kilometers north of Moscow.
Officials have yet to confirm Prigozhin's death in the crash, even though the bodies of all 10 people onboard the plane are said to have been recovered.
Wagner troops moved to Belarus after Prigozhin led a mutiny against Russia's top military officials two months ago in what was the biggest threat to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 23 years in power.
Wagner troops played a key role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, helping take main parts of the city of Bakhmut after nearly 10 months of intense fighting.
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