More than 130 videos of the Wagner march on Moscow have been verified and reviewed by Sky News and the Centre for Information Resilience, making Saturday’s incident one of the most publicly documented of the Ukraine conflict.
“Not since the opening days of Russia’s full-scale invasion have our investigators at the Centre for Information Resilience (CIR) seen so much imagery in such a short period,” said Belen Carrasco-Rodriguez, deputy lead of the Eyes on Russia project.
“This sort of open rebellion is impossible to hide from the world’s digital gaze.”
The most-recorded phase of the Wagner Group’s march to Moscow was the arrival of troops in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, according to the material we reviewed.
Forty-two of the 133 videos seen by CIR and Sky News were taken in the city, which is the Russian military’s logistical hub for its war in Ukraine.
Because of this, the region’s residents are no strangers to military activity. But when armed Wagner soldiers, tanks and armoured vehicles took up positions in the centre of the city early on Saturday morning, onlookers rushed to capture the scene.
This clip was filmed near the Southern Military District headquarters. In it, a group of around 20 armed men in military fatigues can be seen moving in formation behind an armoured vehicle. Nearby, several tanks and other military vehicles are lined up along an avenue that has shops and residential buildings.
It is one of many similar videos circulating on social media showing how Wagner troops asserted their presence in the city as morning broke. Around the same time, Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin shared footage of him inside the Russian military HQ and later stated he was in control of all military sites in the region.
Voronezh is another key location in Saturday’s events, with 22 of the 133 videos we reviewed showing incidents in the area.
Located more than 350 miles north of Rostov-on-Don, it lies along the M4 motorway – the main road used by Wagner as they advanced towards Moscow.
Footage from Voronezh is distinctive in that it depicts the moments Prigozhin’s campaign teetered into violent conflict, with Russian military helicopters and Wagner Group forces on the ground firing on one another. Most of the videos we found from the area capture these tense scenes.
The clip below was filmed at a car dealership on the outskirts of Voronezh city, where the M4 passes. In it, a helicopter can be seen flying low overhead. Men in green fatigues – thought to be Wagner fighters – fire what looks like an anti-aircraft missile from the nearby road in the direction of the chopper.
We know the incident took place in Voronezh, because the blue, white and grey structures match imagery provided on Google.
Slide the marker below to see how a screengrab from the video above matches separate imagery from the same location.
Another clip filmed just five minutes south on the same road shows a helicopter – possibly the same one – narrowly missing being hit by a rocket that almost hits the person recording.
The Wagner Group shot down six Russian military helicopters during the mutiny, according to Ukrainian sources.
In Moscow, much of the footage captured Russian military movements inside the city as it braced for what could be an armed confrontation on Putin’s doorstep. Of the material we viewed, many showed events on Friday evening after news of Prigozhin’s plan became public.
This clip shows at least seven large military trucks in Moscow’s Khamovniki district.
Other clips among the 17 from Moscow reviewed by CIR and Sky News show the defensive actions taken by Russian security forces the following day, including roadblocks like the one below in the city’s Yasenevo district.
The 133 videos we looked at are just some of the ones circulating depicting how Saturday’s unprecedented events folded.
Emily Ferris, research fellow at defence thinktank RUSI, said the high number of videos from the weekend was notable given how tightly controlled information about the war is within Russia.
She told Sky News: “Most of the information we’re relying on has been from the Ukrainian side, which means the overall picture we have about the war is quite skewed.
“We’ve got very little understanding of, say, Russian military morale, Russian public opinion. We are in the dark about a lot of those questions.”
As for the videos themselves, Ms Ferris said that while it was useful to see what happened as Wagner troops moved through Russia, there was still a lot of information missing.
She added: “It is really useful to have video footage of them storming a military building – what is more useful is the interpretation of what happened next.
“I think unfortunately that is testament to the power of the Russian suppressive machine.
“I think what we can expect in the next few weeks – while we can’t say anything for certain – is that there’s going to be a huge amount of restrictions on footage like this, on media, a massive crackdown on anybody that looked like they were in any way sympathetic towards Wagner’s cause.”
The Data and Forensics team is a multi-skilled unit dedicated to providing transparent journalism from Sky News. We gather, analyse and visualise data to tell data-driven stories. We combine traditional reporting skills with advanced analysis of satellite images, social media and other open source information. Through multimedia storytelling we aim to better explain the world while also showing how our journalism is done.