Russia claimed this Friday the conquest of the Ukrainian city of Soledar after a fierce battlebut Ukraine immediately denied this and assured that “intense fighting” for control of this area in the east of the country continues.
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“On the afternoon of January 12, the liberation of the city of Soledar was concluded.which is important for the successful pursuit of offensive operations” in the Donetsk region, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
The Ukrainian army immediately denied the loss of Soledar. “Heavy fighting continues in Soledar,” spokesman for the Eastern Command of the Ukrainian army, Serguii Cherevaty, told Ukrainian television.
“Ukrainian armed forces keep the situation under control in difficult conditions”he added.
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A few hours earlier, his deputy defense minister, Ganna Malyar, said “hostilities continued” overnight and that it was “difficult.”
“The enemy has thrown almost all of its main forces towards (the) Donetsk (region) and is maintaining a high-intensity offensive,” Malyar said on Telegram.
Why is Soledar so important?
The taking of Soledar, which before the conflict had 10,000 inhabitants but is now totally devastated, it would mean a symbolic military victory for Moscow, after the setbacks suffered by its troops since September.
Russian forces probably captured Soledar on January 11.
According to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a US-based organization that follows the fighting in real time, “Russian forces probably captured Soledar on January 11,” that is, on Wednesday.
In support of its claim, the ISW cites “geo-located photos released on January 11 and 12” which “indicate that Russian forces probably control most, if not all, of Soledar and have probably driven Ukrainian forces out of the western periphery of the city.
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However, according to the Institute, the capture of the small town “would not herald an imminent encirclement of Bakhmut”, 15 kilometers southwest of Soledar, and “will not allow Russian forces to exercise control over important Ukrainian land lines of communication”. with the main city of the area.
The fighting in Soledar and its surroundings have been strong for several months, but its intensity increased considerably in the last few days.
The Ukrainian army fights in this small town known for its salt mines against the mercenaries of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner.
The head of the Wagner group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, assured on Wednesday that his men controlled Soledar, but both the Kremlin – with whom he maintains a rivalry relationship – and the Ukrainian authorities quickly denied this.
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The front ‘endures’ according to Ukraine
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky promised on Thursday to deliver all the necessary military material to defend Soledar and Bakhmut, a large city in the east that has also resisted the Russian military offensive for weeks and that Moscow has been trying to conquer since the summer.
The front “endures”, he assured.
Without presenting figures, Mikhailo Podoliak, adviser to the Ukrainian presidency, acknowledged in an interview that Ukraine has suffered “significant losses” in this “bloody battle”, but that they were “enormous” in the enemy camp, which the Russian Defense Ministry did not confirm.
Russia launched its offensive on this area of Donetsk after suffering several setbacks that led Russian President Vladimir Putin to mobilize hundreds of thousands of reservists and to launch a bombing campaign against energy infrastructures as punishment.
The Ukrainian military said on Thursday it had repelled attacks on more than a dozen towns in the region.
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“A lot of work remains to be done,” Russian presidential spokesman Dmitri Peskov said.
To reverse the course of the conflict, Russia again replaced the commander of his offensive in Ukraine, this time naming General Valeri Guerasimov, Chief of the Army General Staff, who is a direct interlocutor with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Gerasimov replaced Sergei Surovikin, who had agreed to that position three months ago.
The UN Security Council is scheduled to meet this Friday at 20:00 GMT to address the situation in Ukraine, eleven months after the start of the Russian invasion.
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