Ukraine denies Russia’s claim of taking Soledar, saying a “heavy” battle is underway

Kyiv, Ukraine – Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Friday that its forces had captured the salt mining town of Soledar center of a bloody battle between Russian and Ukrainian forces for months. However, a Ukrainian military commander was quick to dismiss the claim, saying the “serious” fight is still raging.

Soledar is located in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk province, one of four Ukrainian regions that Moscow illegally annexed in September and has been trying to seize full control of since.

The fall of the city would mark a rare victory for the Kremlin after a series of battlefield setbacks in its invasion of Ukraine. From the start, Moscow identified Donetsk and the neighboring province of Luhansk as priorities and has treated the areas as Russian territory since their alleged annexation.

This footage, taken from AFP video, shows a member of Ukraine’s military looking away as a BM-21 ‘Grad’ MLRS 122mm rocket launcher fires on the outskirts of Soledar, Ukraine, January 11, 2023.


“The liberation of the city of Soledar was completed on the evening of January 12,” said Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, adding that the development was “important for the continuation of offensive operations in the Donetsk region.”

Seizing control of Soledar would allow Russian forces to “sever supply lines to Ukrainian forces” in the Donestsk city of Bakhmut and then “block and encircle Ukrainian units there,” Konashenkov claimed.

But Sergiy Cherevaty, a spokesman for Ukraine’s forces in the east of the country, was quoted by French news agency AFP as saying “heavy fighting is still ongoing” and that his troops “managed to face the situation in difficult conditions.” to keep control”. “

In the war between Russia and Ukraine, the most intense clashes are taking place on the Donetsk front
An infographic shows key locations where Russian forces have stepped up their attacks to capture Ukraine’s cities of Bakhmut and Soledar in the Donetsk region.

Elmurod Usubaliev/Anadolu Agency/Getty

While the battle for the small town has become hugely symbolic and sits in close proximity to the larger Ukrainian-held town of Bakhmut, the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank, said a Russian seizure of Soledar would do so would not “represent an operationally significant development and not likely to predict an imminent Russian encirclement of Bakhmut.”

Russia-Ukraine War Developments
Ukrainian Army Commander Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrskyi gives instructions from a dugout in Soledar, the scene of heavy fighting with Russian forces, in Donetsk region, Ukraine, January 8, 2023.

Roman Chop/AP

The institute said that Russian intelligence operations “exaggerated the importance of Soledar, a small settlement,” and also argued that this long and difficult battle contributed to the exhaustion of Russian forces.

An ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who heads the Wagner Group, claimed last week that his mercenary forces — which operate with a degree of coordination with regular Russian troops — captured Soledar. His claim was quickly dismissed by the Russian and Ukrainian military, who said the fighting continued. Ukraine denies Russia’s claim of taking Soledar, saying a “heavy” battle is underway

Rick Schindler

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