Ukraine: “very hard and bloody fighting” in Soledar, according to the head of Wagner

Ukraine: “very tough and bloody fighting” in Soledar, says leader of Wagner

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Fierce fighting is underway in the suburbs of Soledar, a town in eastern Ukraine close to that of Bakhmout, the hottest point on the front, the leader of the paramilitary group said on Tuesday Russian Wagner.

“Let's be honest […] The Ukrainian army is fighting bravely for Bakhmout and Soledar. Very tough and bloody fighting is underway in the western suburbs of Soledar,” said Yevgeny Prigozhin, quoted on Telegram by his press service. 

“Ukrainian armed forces honorably defend the territory by Soledar. Claims of mass desertions from its ranks do not correspond to reality,” he added.

The town of Soledar, located about ten kilometers northeast of Bakhmout, is close to Bakhmoutské, a village which the pro-Russian separatists claimed to have conquered. 

Denis Pushilin, the leader of the separatists of the Donetsk region, whose annexation Moscow claims, moreover affirmed on Russian television on Tuesday that Soledar was “very close to liberation”. 

Wagner's troops play a leading role in the battle for Bakhmout, a city of questionable strategic importance but which has taken on strong symbolic value as both sides have fought for its control for months. 

On Monday, Yevgeny Prigozhin said that the assault on Soledar was “exclusively” carried out by members of his organization. 

The British Ministry of Defense confirmed on Tuesday that the Russian military and Wagner's units had made “tactical advances” in Soledar for the past four days and were “most likely seeking to encircle Bakhmut from the north” and “disrupt Ukrainian lines of communication”. 

According to this source, part of the fighting is to control the entrance to an old salt mine in Soledar, as its tunnels pass under the front line and could be used to “infiltrate behind enemy lines”.   

However, Russia is not likely to encircle cler Bakhmout “immediately”, according to the British ministry, because the Ukrainian army has “stable defenses in depth” and currently controls several supply routes.