The Russians advancing on Bakhmout and Soledar, with the salt mines before their eyes?

Smoke billowed from the town of Bakhmout in late December. Sameer Al-DOUMY/AFP

The Russian army has taken control of these two towns where Wagner’s militia has been engaged in heavy fighting since mid-May. This region is famous for its rich deposits.

The front of the bloodiest war. Since May 17, the town of Bakhmout, in the Donetsk oblast, has been the site of fierce fighting between Russia and Ukraine. Under a flood of fire, buried in the trenches, the Kyiv army fought back and yielded very little land. But in recent days, Kremlin troops, backed by Wagner militia and Chechen regiments, have advanced on Bakhmout and the nearby town of Soledar.

at Bakhout,the Russians would advance a little to the east of the city but also to the south. Above all, their maneuver to the southwest would be successful and after capturing the area between Bakhmout and Klichiivka to the south, they would invest this last territory.», announced General Olivier Kempf, in his weekly thread.

in Soledar,the Ukrainians were forced to retreat for two days and would only hold a small part of the townadds this keen observer of the conflict. According to him, “Russia will move further north, towards Krasnopolivka, and south, across the space between Soledar and Bakhmout“.

Very strategic position

If fighting has been so lethal for Bakhmout and its region, and progress on both sides has been minimal, it is because the city presents a real strategic importance. It is an important logistics and rail center where two major highways meet. Most importantly, the fall of Bakhmout would open the way for Russia to Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, two important cities for Ukraine.

In that case, if Soledar fell, the Ukrainian troops in Bakhmout would be caught in a pincer movement with the Russian troops coming from the North, East and South. But “Bakhmout holdings destroyed by months of shelling will yield nothing decisive as Russia will face new heights and new lines of Ukrainian defense towards Kramatorsk“, recently angered military historian Cédric Mas Le Figaro .

For now, Bakhmout and Soledarsurvive in spite of everythingas President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday, January 8, promised to send more units to the area. On the same day, the spokesman for the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the East, Serhiy Cherevaty, assured that the Russian army did not control Soledar. Several official Ukrainian sources, cited by the very serious Institute for the Study of War (ISW), also indicated that their soldiers had taken over several Russian positions near Bakhmout. But “the Russian advance north of Bakhmout was reinforced by pressure to the south, where Klishchiivka was attacked“Cédric Mas notes on Twitter.

Testimony of the importance of fighting in the region, Ukrainian ground forces commander Ivan Syrskyi went to Bakhmout and Soledar on Sunday, to embellish the fighters involved on these fronts. He also promised to take steps to improve the defense of the two cities.

Important salt deposits

The region, and in particular the city of Soledar, also offered a secondary strategic importance to the two warring sides. Because there are deposits of gypsum, clay and lime, but mainly a large salt mine, from which the state-owned company Artemsol extracts about seven million tons of minerals every year. It’s in Soledar, which literally means “saltthe most important of them.

Do these elements explain the ferocity of the battle and Wagner’s increased presence in the region? In its daily report, ISW estimated, citing an official in the White House, that Yevgeny Prigojine, the boss of the mercenary group, would seek to extract salt and gypsum from mines in the region, for financial purposes, just as the militia did. common in Africa.

Still according to ISW, Prigojine tried to justify the importance of these mines with their defensive character “unique and historic‘, which acts like ‘underground mine network“, sank to a depth of 100 meters.

SEE ALSO — War in Ukraine: Russia says it has killed 600 Ukrainians in a ‘retaliatory strike’ on Kramatorsk

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