“After months of difficult fighting”, Ukraine ceded Soledar

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It is a difficult admission of a local defeat for kyiv. The Ukrainian army admitted on Wednesday that it had ceded the eastern town of Soledar to the Russians, two weeks after the announcement of its capture by Moscow.

“After months of difficult fighting (…) the Ukrainian armed forces left it” to “retreat to prepared positions”, indicated the military spokesman for the Eastern zone Serguiï Tcherevaty, however refusing to specify when this retreat took place. The Russian paramilitary group Wagner had announced that it had taken Soledar as early as January 11, followed by the Russian army on the 13th. The Ukrainians had so far refused to recognize this loss.

A key step towards Bakhmout, according to the Russians

This small town in the Donetsk region of 11,000 inhabitants before the war, known for its salt mines, is located near Bakhmout, another hot spot in eastern Ukraine. The strategic importance of Soledar has, however, been disputed, with the American think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) considering that it was “not an operationally significant development”.

The Russian army, on the other hand, presents the conquest of Soledar as a key step to encircle the neighboring city of Bakhmout, which it has been seeking to capture since the summer and where both sides are facing heavy losses.

Soledar’s retreat was “controlled, no encirclement or massive capture of our soldiers took place”, for his part assured Serguiï Tcherevaty, who denied any “leak” of Ukrainian soldiers. Before leaving, the Ukrainian troops “inflicted incredible losses” on the Russians, he further assured, stressing that the Ukrainian strategy in this area was to “wear out the enemy”.

A Russian occupation official in eastern Ukraine also claimed on Wednesday an advance of Russian troops in Bakhmout, citing the capture of Soledar as a determining factor. According to Tcherevaty Tcherevaty, however, these claims “do not correspond to reality”. “The fighting continues. The situation is difficult, but under control,” he added.

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