Russia has struggled to advance in the region for months, with both sides suffering huge losses as it became a focal point of the conflict after Ukraine’s successful counteroffensive in the south. But Kremlin forces appear to have made progress in Soledar in recent days.
Russian soldiers and fighters from the Wagner Mercenary Group likely controlled most of Soledar, 6 miles northeast of Bakhmut, the UK MoD said in his daily war intelligence briefing on Tuesday. The decision to take Soledar was, he said, “most likely an effort to envelop Bakhmut from the north and to disrupt Ukrainian lines of communication.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked soldiers resisting Russian advances in a statement late Monday.
“It’s extremely difficult – there are almost no whole walls left,” he said. “Thanks to the resilience of our warriors there, in Soledar, we have gained additional time and power for Ukraine.”
Zelenskyy said that in the area around Soledar and Bakhmut, “everything is completely destroyed. There is almost no more life. »
“The whole country near Soledar is covered with the corpses of the occupiers and the scars of the strikes,” he added. “This is what madness looks like.”
Some days. the two sides exchanged several thousand artillery rounds in the region, in trench fighting described as “savage” and compared to the carnage of World War I by a US military official during a briefing to reporters on Monday.
Ukraine’s military said on Monday that Russia had made a “desperate attempt to storm the town of Soledar from different directions and threw the most professional units of the Wagnerians into battle.”
Serhiy Cherevaty, a spokesman for Ukraine’s eastern forces, told Ukrainian television that Soledar was hit by 86 shells on Tuesday alone.
“There are fierce battles now, and the enemy has concentrated there the best units of the organized criminal group ‘Wagner’, which are supported by the regular armed forces of the Russian Federation,” he said.
The head of the Moscow-backed Donetsk occupied areas, Denis Pushilin, told Russian state television on Tuesday that Russian forces were “very close” to taking Soledar, but the gains came at a high price. Taking the city would create “good prospects” for then taking Bakhmut, he said.