Ukraine: fighting still ongoing in Soledar, Kyiv denies losing the small town

Russian mercenary group Wagner claimed control of the town of Soledar on Wednesday, the site of heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine in recent days, a claim Kyiv hastily denied.

Soledar, once known for its salt mines, lies near the larger town of Bakhmout, which the Ukrainians have defended fiercely for months against a wave of onslaughts from Russian troops.

Soledar’s strategic importance is debated, but his capture will allow Moscow to finally achieve a military victory after several humiliating setbacks since last September, and for the leader of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, to cement his growing influence on the Russian political scene. .

“Wagner’s unit has taken control of the entire Soledar area,” Prigojine said Wednesday morning via his social media press service.

He added, however, that “urban fighting” continued in pockets of resistance in the city center, making the extent of the Russian group’s control over Soledar uncertain.

Ukraine: fighting still ongoing in Soledar, Kyiv denies losing the small town

Fighting between Ukrainian and Russian troops is still ongoing in Soledar according to the Russian army, as the Wagner mercenary group claimed control of the small eastern Ukrainian town on Wednesday, a claim Kyiv quickly denied.

Soledar, once known for its salt mines, lies near the larger town of Bakhmout which the Ukrainians have defended fiercely for months against a wave of attacks from Russian troops.

Soledar’s strategic importance is debated, but its control will allow Moscow to finally achieve a military victory, after several humiliating setbacks since last September, and for the leader of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, to cement his growing influence in Russian politics. scene. .

“Assault troops are fighting in the city,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement, adding that “air units blocked the northern and southern parts” of the city.

“Russian aerospace forces attacked enemy strongholds,” he added.

Kyiv denies

Previously, the Kremlin was aware of the situation on the ground.

“You don’t need to rush. Let’s wait for the official statement,” Russian presidential spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told the press, noting that there was a “positive dynamic in the advance” of Russian troops.

The Russian army’s statement, however, contradicts the words of the leader of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner, Mr Prigojine, who confirmed early Wednesday that his unit had “exclusively” taken over the entire Soledar area.

He did, however, note that “urban fighting” continued in pockets of resistance in the city center, making the degree of control the Russian group had over this prewar small town of just over 10,000 residents uncertain.

Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti has released a photo of Mr Prigojine with armed fighters, claiming it was taken at the Soledar salt mine.

The Ukrainian army quickly disputed these claims, asserting that Soledar “was, is, and will always be Ukrainian” and that it was “not true” that Prigozhin was in Soledar’s salt mines.

AFP was unable to independently verify the situation on the ground.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, late on Tuesday, reported a “difficult situation” in the Donetsk region, where Soledar is located.

Russia-Ukraine meeting in Turkey

On the diplomatic front, a rare meeting between Russian and Ukrainian officials was held Tuesday in Turkey between the two countries’ human rights officials, Dmytro Loubinets and Tatiana Moskalkova.

The two representatives “discussed various humanitarian issues and cases related to the provision of human rights assistance to citizens of the two countries,” Loubinets said on his social media.

“Humanitarian aid for citizens of Ukraine and Russia” was well mentioned, said Ms. Moskalkova for her part.

On the battlefield, Russian bombing hit Kharkiv late Tuesday, hours after an unannounced visit to this city in northeastern Ukraine by Germany’s chief diplomat, Annalena Baerbock.

“A pyrotechnic warehouse was hit. Large-scale fires broke out, pyrotechnic products exploded during the night,” regional governor Oleg Synegoubov said on Telegram, adding, however, that “there were no casualties.”

Invited by his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kouleba, who accompanied him, Baerbock said he had brought a “new package” of aid including 20 million euros ($28 million) for mine clearance and as much for expanding Starlink’s network of access to the Internet. He also announced the delivery of new generators for Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, which were being systematically bombed by Russia.

Meanwhile, Kouleba once again urged Germany to provide Ukraine with heavy weapons. “The longer such a decision is delayed, the more casualties, the more civilian deaths,” he said.

Volodymyr Zelensky announced late Tuesday that he had stripped wealthy businessman Viktor Medvedchuk of Ukrainian citizenship, a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Kyiv accuses of high treason for Russia.

The 68-year-old former lawmaker, born in Siberia and considered Putin’s man in Ukraine, was sent to Russia in a prisoner exchange between Kyiv and Moscow in late September 2022, after being imprisoned for more than five months in Ukraine.

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