- Will Vernon in Moscow and Paul Kirby in London
- BBC News
Russia’s defense ministry said it had taken control of the Ukrainian city of Soledor after a long battle, calling it a “significant” step in its offensive.
“On the night of January 12, the liberation of the city of Soledar was completed, which is important for the successful continuation of offensive operations in the Donetsk direction,” the ministry said in a statement published by Telegram.
This victory would allow the Russian troops Move towards the nearby town of BaJMutt Isolate Ukrainian forces there, a spokesman added.
It’s a very strong and ambitious statement from Moscow, but Ukrainian officials say the fight for Solidar is still ongoing and He blamed Russia Do “Information Noise”.
The battle for Solidar is on One of the bloodiest of the war.
The town was relatively small, with a pre-war population of just 10,000 and its economy centered around salt mining. Its strategic importance is debatable. But if Russian forces are confirmed to be under control, the Kremlin is likely to breathe a huge sigh of relief.
Throughout the war, divisions arose between the Russian armed forces and the brutal Russian Wagner paramilitary group, and a jealous turf war broke out over who should take credit for this advance.
Comparison with World War I
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said this week that no walls remain in Solatar. While describing the almost apocalyptic scenes, he spoke of marked territory Missile attacks and full Russian corpses.
Speaking during his evening speech from Kyiv on Friday, Zelensky said fighting in the region continues but avoided any mention of Russia’s claims to control Soledar.
“Despite the fact that the enemy has concentrated its largest forces in this direction, our troops, the Ukrainian Armed Forces, all security and defense forces, are protecting the state,” the Ukrainian leader said.
His chief of staff, Andrei Yermak, compared Soledar and the Battle of Bagmuth One of the bitterest battles of World War I, that Verdun.
Regional Governor Pavlo Kyrilenko said Thursday that 559 civilians, including 15 children, were staying in Soledar and could not be moved.
Military analysts question the importance of the city to the Russian military due to its relatively small size. The U.S.-based Institute for War Studies said that while Russian forces may have taken control of Soledar, they do not believe they will be able to encircle Bagmut.
Having failed to capture a city in Ukraine since July 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin needs a victory.
Ukraine’s successful counteroffensive pushed Russia completely out of the Kharkiv region in the northeast. The Crimean bridgehead was attacked in October, and Russian forces withdrew from the city of Kherson the following month.
The southern port city was the only regional capital Russia was able to capture since the invasion began.
The capture of Soledar would provide “good news” for the Russian people and troops on the Moscow Winter Front.
But Serhii Serevaty, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Eastern Military Command, Soledar denied being in Russian hands. “We will not provide more details as we do not want to reveal the tactical positions of our fighters,” he added.
Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malier said that “the fighting has heated up in Solatar overnight.” He added that Ukrainian fighters were “seriously trying to hold on to the defensive”.
In a late-night speech on Thursday, Zelensky described the broader security of Soledar, Bakhmut and the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine as a key issue.
Bid with Wagner Group
Western and Ukrainian officials have said most of the fighting in Solidar and Bagmut was carried out by Wagner’s group.
Their leader, Evgeny Prigogine, the 61-year-old Russian oligarch, has repeatedly said in recent days that his forces are the only units on the ground in Solatar. On Tuesday night he claimed his mercenaries had captured the city, a claim contradicted by the Russian Defense Ministry the following morning.
Daily updates from the Russian Defense Ministry make no mention of the Wagner group, and Friday’s briefing was no exception. Army paratroopers played a key role in capturing the city, officials said.
Prigozhin later released a statement saying he was “surprised” after reading the Defense Ministry report. He asserted that “there was not a single paratrooper” in Soledar, showing his anger for insulting (his) fighters and “stealing other people’s achievements”.
Chairman of Wagner group He spoke publicly this Friday and accused “authorities who want to stay in their places” of the biggest threat to his group’s progress in Ukraine.
In a later statement, the Defense Ministry praised the mercenaries’ “courageous and selfless actions” during the fighting, but again emphasized the leadership role of the official Russian armed forces.
Analysts have long talked about tensions between the military and Wagner’s group. The oligarchy has publicly criticized top military leadersIncluding General Valery Gerasimov, who was appointed General Commander of Russian Forces in Ukraine two days ago.
As Russia mobilized some 300,000 quotas for the war since late September, Prigozhin sought to recruit more mercenaries from Russian prisons.
Yermak told the French newspaper the world Russian criminals were sent straight to their deaths at the front: “Soledar is a scene of street fighting, with neither side actually in control of the city.”
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