Ukraine says its forces are repelling constant Russian attacks in the east

  • Kyiv describes the situation in Soledar as difficult
  • No visible signs of casualties in barracks Russia says it struck
  • Zelensky says Russia attacks despite declaration of truce

KYIV/KRAMATORSK, Ukraine, Jan 8 (Reuters) – Ukraine is bolstering its forces in the eastern Donbass region and fending off ongoing attacks on Bakhmut and other towns by the Russian mercenary group Wagner, Ukrainian authorities said on Monday. .

Reinforcements had been sent to Soledar, a small town near Bakhmut where the situation was particularly difficult, they said.

“The enemy again desperately tried to storm the town of Soledar from different directions and threw the most professional units of the Wagnerians into battle,” the Ukrainian military said in a statement.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in overnight video remarks on Sunday that Bakhmut and Soledar were holding on despite the widespread destruction.

“Our soldiers are repelling constant Russian attempts to advance,” he said. At Soledar “things are very difficult”.

Further north, in the Kharkiv region, a Russian missile strike on the local market injured seven civilians, including a 13-year-old girl, the regional center for emergency medical assistance said.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner mercenary group which has been trying to capture Bakhmut and Soledar for months in a bitter war that has cost many lives on both sides, said on Saturday his importance lay in the network of mines there.

“It not only has (the ability to contain) a large group of people at a depth of 80 to 100 meters, but tanks and infantry fighting vehicles can also move.”

Military analysts say the strategic military advantage for Moscow would be limited. A US official said the Wagner Group monitors salt and gypsum mines there.

Serhiy Cherevaty, spokesman for Ukraine’s Eastern Command, said he believed it would be possible to stabilize the situation.

“There are brutal and bloody battles there – 106 shellings in one day,” he told Ukrainian television.

“Our troops in Soledar have received additional forces and means for this purpose and everything is being done to improve the operational situation there.”

Reuters was unable to independently verify the battlefield reports.

NO CHRISTMAS CEASFIRE

Zelenskiy again denounced what he called Russia’s failure to honor the ceasefire it declared on Friday and Saturday for the Russian Orthodox Christmas.

Ukraine never accepted the ceasefire, which it called a Russian excuse to build up troops. Both sides accused the other of continuing hostilities throughout the period.

“The Russians were bombarding Kherson with incendiary munitions immediately after Christmas,” he said, referring to the southern city abandoned by Russian forces in November.

“Strikes on Kramatorsk and other cities in Donbass – on civilian targets and just as Moscow was signaling a supposed ‘silence’ for its army.”

On Sunday, Russia said a missile attack on Kramatorsk, northwest of Bakhmut, killed 600 Ukrainian soldiers, but a Reuters reporter at the scene found no visible signs of casualties.

A Reuters team visited two university dormitories which Moscow said were temporarily housing Ukrainian staff and which it had targeted in revenge for a New Year’s Eve attack that killed dozens of Russian soldiers and caused outcry in Russia.

But none of the dormitories in the eastern town of Kramatorsk appear to have been directly hit or seriously damaged. There were no obvious signs that soldiers had lived there and no signs of bodies or traces of blood.

Serhiy Cherevatyi, a Ukrainian military spokesman for the Eastern region, described the allegation of mass casualties as an attempt by the Russian Defense Ministry to show that it had responded forcefully to Ukraine’s recent strikes. against Russian soldiers.

“This is an information operation by the Russian Defense Ministry,” Cherevatyi told Ukrainian television channel Suspilne News.

As Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine approaches a year, the Russian military is under domestic pressure to achieve battlefield success.

Warmongering voices called for an escalation of the war effort after setbacks such as the loss of captured territories and high death and injury rates.

Some prominent Russian military bloggers have criticized the Russian Defense Ministry’s claims.

“Let’s talk about ‘fraud’,” a prominent pro-war military blogger wrote on the Telegram messaging app, which publishes as Military Informant and has more than half a million subscribers.

“We don’t know who, and for what reason, decided that 600 Ukrainian soldiers died inside, all of a sudden, if the building was not actually hit (even the light remained on).

“Instead of the actual destruction of enemy personnel, which would have been a dignified response, a media-only retaliatory operation was invented.”

The armies of Russia and Ukraine often overestimated enemy losses, while understating their own.

Senior Ukrainian military officials said last week that some 760 Russian troops were killed or injured in two attacks on Moscow-controlled parts of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. These reports could not be independently verified.

Reports from Reuters offices; Written by Lincoln Feast and Philippa Fletcher; Editing by Lisa Shumaker, and Clarence Fernandez and Peter Graff

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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