Russia says it took Soledar, Ukraine denies its capture

KIEV, UKRAINE—Russia on Friday claimed that its troops had captured the hotly contested salt-mining town of Soledar in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian officials said the fighting over the town continued.

Since the February 24 invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has prioritized full control of Donbass, which consists of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Half of Donetsk is still under Ukrainian control.

There have been repeated conflicting reports about who controls Soledar. The Associated Press was unable to independently confirm either side’s claims.

“The liberation of the town of Soledar was completed on the evening of January 12,” said Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov, adding that the development was “important for the continuation of offensive operations in the Donetsk region.” said there is.

By taking control of the town, Russian forces could cut off supply lines to Ukrainian forces at Bakhmut and “block and encircle Ukrainian troops there,” Konashenkov said.

But Serhii Cherevaty, a spokesman for the Ukrainian military in the east, denied the town had fallen, telling AP that “there are still Ukrainian troops in Soledar.”

Also, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said late Friday: “The tough battle against Donetsk continues. The battle continues for Bakhmut and Soledar, Kreminna and other towns and villages in the eastern part of our province.”

Zelensky told the Lithuanian parliament earlier in the day that Kyiv was not going to give the Russian army a “breather” and that the coming months would be “decisive” for Ukraine’s fight for self-defense.

Ukraine reported a heavy night of fighting just hours before Russia’s claims. Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hannah Mariar said in a Telegram post early Friday that Moscow had “deployed almost all its soldiers.” [its] Main force to secure victory in the East ”.

“This is a difficult stage in the war, but we will win,” Marial added.

Konashenkov said the Soleder raid was made possible thanks to massive airstrikes and artillery attacks, as well as the paratroopers’ operation to encircle the city. He did not mention the Wagner Group, which was previously credited with capturing Soledar.

After Prigogine angrily accused the MoD of “always trying to rob Wagner of victory”, the MoD changed course, acknowledging the group’s “courageous and selfless act” to capture Soledar.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s central security services announced on Friday that it was conducting sabotage exercises along part of its border with Belarus. The move comes amid growing concerns over Belarus’ possible involvement in the war. The country provides bases for about 10,000 Russian soldiers, and the two countries are scheduled to hold joint military air exercises next week.

Associated Press