Satellite images indicate extent of losses by Russian mercenary group in Ukraine

The number of graves at a cemetery used by the notorious Russian mercenary Wagner Group has risen dramatically over the past two months, satellite images show.

A photo taken on January 24 by Maxar Technologies, a US defense contractor based in Colorado, shows at least 121 burial plots in a section of the cemetery allocated to fighters from a private military company.

An image of the same area taken Nov. 24 appears to show around 17 graves, suggesting a sevenfold increase in two months, according to an NBC News analysis of the site on the outskirts of the village of Bakinskaya in southwestern Russia.

The apparent expansion at the site, located about 200 miles from the border with Crimea, comes after Wagner Group fighters were belatedly credited by the Russian Defense Ministry with capturing the semi-conflict town of Soledar in eastern Ukraine earlier this month. the most intense fight.

Satellite images show an increase in the number of graves at a cemetery in Bakinskaya, Russia, from November 24 to January 24.Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies

Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner Group, he said soldiers from his irregular private army captured the salt mining town two days before the official announcement. He later said to himself that the Russian army was “constantly trying to steal Wagner’s victory”.

Prigozhin, a longtime ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and a former restaurateur, recruited ex-prisoners as soldiers-for-hire in Russia’s war in Ukraine, promising rewards and pardons in exchange for their service. The Wagner Group previously provided assistance to the Russian military during the conflicts in Syria and Libya.

Serhii Cherevatyi, a spokesman for Ukrainian forces in the east, acknowledged Soledar’s fall for the first time on Wednesday, saying his country’s troops had now moved out of the city to previously prepared defense lines “to save the lives of personnel.” ”

He added that Ukraine had inflicted “huge losses” on Russian troops comparable to “the losses of the aggressor in the two Chechen wars”.

NBC News could not independently verify this claim.

A cemetery for mercenaries with PMC Wagner Group in Baku, Russia.
A cemetery for mercenaries with PMC Wagner Group in Baku, Russia.Protocol / Telegram

Two weeks ago, similar aerial images taken around the nearby city of Bakhmut revealed the devastation of destroyed buildings and bomb craters in the strategically important city by comparing the same areas pictured in August and then again in January. These images were also released by Maxar Technologies.

The US government said last week it would designate the Wagner Group a “significant transnational criminal organization” and impose additional sanctions on the organization and its support network.

The Wagner group did not comment on the satellite images and video.

Matthew Moschella contributed.

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