The number of graves in the cemetery used by Russia’s notorious Wagner group of mercenaries has increased dramatically over the past two months, satellite imagery shows.
A photo taken on Jan. 24 by Maxar Technologies, a US defense contractor headquartered in Colorado, shows at least 121 burial sites in cemetery plots allocated to private military company combatants.
An image of the same area taken on November 24 appears to show about 17 graves, suggesting an increase of about seven times in two months. Southwestern Russia.
The apparent expansion at the site, located about 200 miles from the border with Crimea, comes after a belated admission by the Russian Ministry of Defense earlier this month that fighters from the Wagner Group had captured the town of Soledar in eastern Ukraine. rice field. most intense combat.
Evgeny Prigogine, leader of the Wagner Group, Said troops from his irregular private army We shot the salt mining town two days before the official announcement. He later complained that the Russian army was “always trying to steal Wagner’s victory”.
Prigozhin, a longtime ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and a former restaurateur, recruits former prisoners as soldiers for hire in Russia’s war against Ukraine, promising bounties and pardons in exchange for their services. The Wagner Group has previously provided assistance to Russian forces during conflicts in Syria and Libya.
Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesman for eastern Ukraine, confirmed Soledar’s downfall for the first time on Wednesday, saying that Ukrainian forces had “moved to previously prepared defensive lines to protect the lives of personnel.” ”
He added that Ukraine had inflicted “huge losses” on Russian soldiers, comparable to “the losses of the aggressors in the two Chechen wars.”
NBC News was unable to independently confirm this claim.
Similar aerial photographs taken around the nearby city of Bakhmut two weeks ago showed that by comparing the same area taken in August and January, the strategically important city’s ruined buildings and bombardment Revealed the devastation of the crater. These images were also released by Maxar Technologies.
The US government announced last week that it would designate the Wagner Group a “serious international criminal organization” and impose further sanctions on the organization and its supporting networks.
The Wagner Group did not comment on the satellite imagery and video footage.