UKRAINE: Russia announced on Friday that its troops had taken control of the war-torn town of Soledar in east Ukraine after months of battle setbacks, but Kyiv said that furious fighting was still going on.
In the conflict over the salt mining outpost, both sides have suffered crushing losses, with Ukraine vowing to defend its territory and Moscow keen to bring any victory home after years of humiliation.
The Russian defence ministry declared late the previous day that it had “completed the liberation” of Soledar and that the triumph would allow for more “successful offensive operations” in the Donetsk area.
It commended the “courageous and selfless” fighters of the mercenary outfit Wagner for storming Soledar in a separate statement.
Ukraine dismissed Russia’s declaration, saying that “severe fighting” was still going on in Soledar, an industrial town that had a pre-war population of roughly 10,000 but is now in ruins.
Ganna Malyar, the deputy minister of defence for Ukraine, warned previously that Russia had positioned the majority of its forces close to Donetsk in order to seize Soledar. “This is a difficult phase of the war,” she stated.
The artillery echoed around the damaged buildings in Siversk, a town north of Soledar that might be the next target for the Russian advance.
Ukrainian military personnel braved light snow and freezing winds to enter the area, and there were a few surviving residents among the buildings.
Oleksandr Sirenko, who was sawing window frames and flooring from demolished apartments into smaller pieces for fuel, declared he did not want Kyiv’s troops to withdraw.
“I’ve been terrified of a lot of things throughout my life. We can only pray that they do not retreat. We can only hope. We are terrified, but what should we do?” he told the media.
The Russian forces’ position may be improved if Soledar is taken as they advance toward Bakhmut, a nearby transport hub that has been their major objective since October.
The conquest of Soledar, according to the Russian defence ministry, “allows for the possibility of cutting off supply channels of Ukrainian soldiers” there and surrounding them.
Russian information operations have “overexaggerated” the significance of Soledar, according to the US-based Institute for the Study of War.
However, this small-scale triumph is not likely to portend Bakhmut’s impending encirclement, it said.
It said that the battle for Soledar had probably severely exhausted Russian military resources, limiting its capacity to quickly advance to the bigger Bakhmut to the south.
The Ukrainian army has suffered significant losses in the battles of Soledar and Bakhmut and is pleading with its friends for more weapons.
Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian presidential office, declared, “We need more military equipment, heavy equipment, to win this war.”
Dmytro Kuleba, Foreign Minister, said he had discussed the necessity for Ukraine to get Western-style tanks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The calls came in advance of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group’s meeting at Ramstein Air Base in Germany the next week, which coordinates the supply of armaments to Kyiv.
Kyiv has increased pressure on the West to provide aircraft, tanks, and long-range bombs. At the White House, Joe Biden, the US president, and Fujio Kishida, Japan’s prime minister, reiterated their support for Ukraine.
Meanwhile, on Friday, the UN Security Council convened again to discuss Ukraine’s situation since the start of Russia’s invasion.
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