uncertainty remains over Soledar’s fate
AFP, published on Saturday January 14, 2023 at 07:13
Uncertainty remained on Saturday about the fate of Soledar, the small town in eastern Ukraine that Russia guaranteed the day before had taken control after heavy fighting, an announcement denied by Kyiv.
“The battle for Soledar continues,” the Ukrainian general staff said in its evening report without further details.
In a statement, the Russian Ministry of Defense said that the “liberation of the city of Soledar” was completed “on the evening of January 12”.
In a rare sign of recognition between these two structures that frequently enter into rivalries on the ground in Ukraine, the Russian army later praised in a message the “courageous act” of Wagner mercenary group fighters, whose men led “head-on”. attack on the residential area of Soledar”.
A spokesman for the Ukrainian army’s Eastern Command, Sergiy Tcherevaty, said during the day that his troops were keeping the situation “under control in difficult conditions” in the face of “the best units (of the Russian mercenary group) Wagner and ‘other Russian special forces’.
– “Difficult phase” –
“This is a difficult phase of the war,” said Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Ganna Maliar, acknowledging the “high-intensity (Russian) attack”.
According to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a US-based agency, the conquest of Soledar, a small town of about 10,000 before the conflict, “cannot foreshadow the imminent siege of Bakhmout”, a key target of the Russian army, located 15 kilometers southwest of Soledar.
It “will not allow Russian troops to exercise control over the crucial Ukrainian communication line to Bakhmout”, he said in his daily bulletin.
The fighting in and around Soledar has been raging for several months, but has increased in intensity in recent days.
On Wednesday, Wagner’s chief, Evguéni Prigojine, had claimed Soledar’s capture with his men, before being denied not only by the Kyiv, but also by the Russian army.
In its daily bulletin, ISW has indicated that it believes that “Russian troops (actually) may seize Soledar on January 11”, or Wednesday.
In support of its statement, ISW referred specifically to “geotagged photos published on 11 and 12 January” which “demonstrate that Russian forces may control most if not all of Soledar and may have pushed Ukrainian forces out of the western fringes of the region”. .
At Siversk, 25 km north of Soledar, the sound of artillery echoed Friday. On the streets covered with a light layer of snow, only a few residents and soldiers strolled about, blown by the icy wind.
“We are scared but where can we go?” asks Oleksandre Sirenko, 55, who is busy recovering bits of window to use as firewood.
“We just hope that (Ukrainian soldiers) will not back down,” he told AFP.
– Requirements for weapons –
To confront the Russian army, Kyiv is once again asking its Western allies to provide more high-performance weapons and military equipment.
“To win this war, we need more military equipment, heavy equipment,” Andriy Iermak, chief of staff of the Ukrainian presidency, urged on Telegram, as Ukraine tirelessly asked for heavy tanks as well as long-range missiles.
Ukraine said on Friday it had become a “de facto” member of NATO.
“That’s true. It’s a fact,” Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov told the BBC. “I believe that in the near future we will become a member of NATO, de jure,” he continued, echoing Kyiv’s official request on this matter.
The alliance announced on Friday the deployment of Awacs reconnaissance aircraft to Romania starting Tuesday to support its strengthened presence in the region and “monitor Russian military activity”.
Visiting the United States, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida assured Friday that his country’s participation in measures against Russia had “renewed the fight against Russian aggression in Ukraine, moving it from a transatlantic struggle to a world struggle”.
The UN Security Council met again to discuss the situation in Ukraine on Friday, nearly eleven months after the start of the Russian invasion.
“Ukraine, Russia, the world cannot afford to continue this war,” said UN Under Secretary General for Political Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo. But “it is the military logic that dominates, with very little room for dialogue at the moment,” he added, seeing “no sign of an end to the fighting”.