Russia assured this Friday that it conquered the Ukrainian city of Soledar after a bitter battlebut Ukraine denied it and stated that the “intense fighting” for control of that town in the east of the country continues.
“On the afternoon of January 12, the liberation of the city of Soledar 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 fall of that town, with 10,000 inhabitants before the war and practically destroyed by bombing.
“Heavy fighting continues in Soledar,” spokesman for the Eastern Command of the Ukrainian army, Sergei Cherevaty, told television. “Ukrainian Armed Forces keep the situation under control in difficult conditions”he added.
Cherevaty accused Moscow of “spreading ‘information noise’”, to provoke the “distrust of Ukrainians towards [su] army”. Thus, he urged not to interpret “small withdrawals or maneuvers” as a “big defeat.”
The fighting in the area began several months ago and has concentrated in Soledar in recent days. The Ukrainian army is fighting there against the mercenaries of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner.
The Russian military on Friday praised the “brave and selfless actions” of fighters from that group, whose members carried out a “direct assault against the residential neighborhoods of Soledar”. This is an unusual statement, as the Russian military and Wagner’s paramilitaries have shown rivalry on the ground during the Ukraine offensive.
A few hours earlier, the Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister, Ganna Malyar, had admitted that “the enemy […] He maintains a high-intensity offense.”
The capture of Soledar would mean an important symbolic military victory for Moscowafter the setbacks suffered by his troops since September.
According to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a US-based organization that tracks combat in real time, the fall of Soledar “would not herald an imminent siege of Bakhmut”, the main city in the area, 15 kilometers to the southwest. And “it would also not allow Russian forces to control important Ukrainian land lines of communication” with that city.
On Wednesday, the head of the Wagner group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, claimed that his men controlled the town, but both the Kremlin and the Ukrainian authorities quickly denied this.
In its daily bulletin, the ISW said it believed that “Russian forces probably captured Soledar on January 11,” that is, on Wednesday.
In support of his claim, he shows “geo-located photos published on January 11 and 12” that “indicate that Russian forces they probably control most of Soledarif not all, and have probably driven the Ukrainian forces from the western outskirts of the city.”
Ukrainian President, Volodimir Zelenskypromised on Thursday to deliver all the necessary military equipment to defend Soledar and Bakhmut.
In Siversk, 25 kilometers north of Soledar, artillery fire was heard on Friday. On the streets covered by a thin layer of snow, only a few inhabitants and soldiers walked under a freezing wind.
“We are scared, but where can we go?” wondered Oleksandre Sirenko, 55, as he collected pieces of wood from blown-out window frames to use as firewood. “We just hope that [el ejército ucraniano] Don’t back down,” he told the news agency. AFP.
in the region of KharkivIn northeastern Ukraine, a Russian shelling killed two women, ages 59 and 64, the regional governor said.
Ukraine again asked its Western allies for more weapons and military equipment to face the Russian offensive, which began on February 24.
“To win this war, we need more military equipment, heavy equipment”urged Andrii Yermak of the Ukrainian presidency.
The Ukrainian Defense Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, estimated that his country became de facto member of NATO, the western transatlantic alliance. “It is a fact […] We have the weaponry and the understanding of how to use it,” Reznikov told the BBC.
Russia again replaced the commander of the offensive in Ukraine this week. He appointed General Valeri Gerasimov, the Joint Chief of Staff, who is a direct interlocutor of Russian President Vladimir Putin, to the post. Gerasimov replaced Sergei Surovikin, who had agreed to that position just three months ago.
The UN Security Council is scheduled to meet this Friday at 20:00 GMT to address the situation in Ukraine.
(By Susannah Walden – AFP)
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