Kyiv. Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed on Friday that the Russian army has captured the eastern Ukrainian salt mine town of Soledar. The capture of Soledar would mark a ‘rare victory’ for Russia after several setbacks in the war against Ukraine. The ministry said Russian forces have captured Soledar, the center of a bloody conflict between Russian and Ukrainian forces.
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However, Ukrainian officials denied Russia’s claim to have captured Soledar, which falls under eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk province, and said fighting was still ongoing. Donetsk is one of four regions Moscow annexed to Russia in September. There have been conflicting reports over control of Soledar, which has been fighting a fierce battle for nearly a month. Given the threats there, The Associated Press could not independently verify Russia’s claim.
“The liberation of the city of Soledar was completed on the evening of January 12,” said Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry. He said that this development is important for the continuation of offensive operations in the Donetsk region. Konashenkov said that having control over Soledar would allow Russian forces to cut the supply line of Ukrainian forces at Bakhmut and then encircle Ukrainian units. But Serhiy Cherevaty, a spokesman for the Ukrainian military in the eastern region, denied the Russian Defense Ministry’s claim in an interview with the RBK news establishment, saying that “fighting continues in the city.”
Meanwhile, the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said Russia’s capture of Soledar is not an operationally significant development and is unlikely to lead to the encirclement of Bakhmut. Hours before Russia’s claim, Ukraine said there had been heavy fighting overnight but did not say the city had been taken over by Russia.
In a telegram post early Friday, Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliyar said Moscow had sent “almost all (of its) main forces” to conquer the eastern city, but Ukrainian fighters “bravely needed to defend trying.” “This is a difficult phase of the war, but we will win,” he said. It doesn’t have any message.”
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