ARIS MESSINIS / AFP A picture shows a crater in front of a damaged apartment building after a rocket attack in the town of Soledar in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region June 4, 2022. – Russian artillery pounded Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region, fighting around the town of Severodonetsk , but the local governor says there has been some progress in pushing back the invading forces. (Photo by ARIS MESSINIS / AFP)
ARIS MESSINIS / AFP
The Ukrainian army on Wednesday acknowledged that it had ceded the city of Soledar to the Russians two weeks after Moscow announced its capture (here in June 2022).
UKRAINE – The Ukrainian army admitted on Wednesday, January 25, that it ceded the eastern Ukrainian city of Soledar to the Russians two weeks after Moscow announced its capture.
“After months of hard struggles […]Ukrainian forces left it” to “retreat to prepared positions,” Eastern Zone military spokesman Serguiï Tcherevaty told AFP, but refused to specify the timing of that withdrawal.
Russian paramilitary group Wagner announced that they had taken Soledar on January 11, followed by the Russian army on January 13. Known for its salt mines, this small pre-war Donetsk region town of 11,000 people is close to Bakhmout, another hotspot in eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainians have so far refused to acknowledge the loss of the city.
Soledar’s strategic importance has been disputed, with the American think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) saying it was “not an operationally significant development”. The Russian army, on the other hand, presents the capture of Soledar as an important step in encircling the neighboring town of Bakhmout, which it has been trying to capture since the summer and where both sides are suffering heavy casualties.
A “controlled” retreat
Soledar’s retreat was “controlled, there was no encirclement or massive capture of our soldiers,” assured Serguiï Tcherevaty, who denied any “leaks” by Ukrainian soldiers. Before leaving, Ukrainian troops inflicted “incredible casualties” on the Russians, he said, stressing that Ukrainian strategy in the area is “to wear down the enemy.”
A Russian occupation official in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday claimed responsibility for an advance by Russian troops in Bakhmout, citing the capture of Soledar as a crucial factor. However, according to Sergiï Tcherevaty, these claims “do not correspond to reality”. “The fighting continues. The situation is difficult but under control.”
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