where is the battle in Soledar, the “hottest” point of the conflict?

The town of Soledar, population 10,000, has been the target of heavy fighting between Russia and Ukraine for several months. MAXAR TECHNOLOGY / REUTERS

FOCUS- Analysts say the small town 10 kilometers from Bakhmout is 90 percent likely to be under Russian control, with Ukrainian troops holding the last stand on the western outskirts.

Who would have thought that the small town of Soledar, in eastern Ukraine, would become the center of Russia’s war strategy? This locality in the Donetsk region, in the east, which had 10,000 inhabitants before the war, is a point with the neighboring city of Bakhmout “hottestconflict, the regional governor said on Saturday. Since Friday, Moscow has claimed control. After heavy fighting, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced “releasethe city, which allegedly happened, he claimed, “January 12 at night“.

At the same time, kyiv claims that the city is still “under controlUkrainian. “Battles continued inside and outside the cityGovernor of the Donetsk region Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Saturday. How about?

This city is probably 90% under Russian control

According to the Institute for the Study of War, satellite images from January 11 and 12 indicated that Russian troops would control most, if not all of Soledar, and Ukrainian troops were pushed back to the western outskirts of the city. At the same time, Russian Internet users published images of fighters from Wagner’s group on January 12 marching freely through the city, alongside Russian troops.

For Olivier Kempf, associate researcher at the Foundation for Strategic Research, Russia, which has controlled 40% of the city last week, has “continued their advance and took all the centers and almost all the salt mines, that is, at least 90% of the city“. Therefore, the Ukrainian people will be “around mine shaft no.7 and station“, position “although everything (…) is very precarious“. President Zelensky said in his daily speech on Friday that “battle for Bakhmout and Soledarstill in process.

Soledar, cheap lens

Militarily, observers agree with very limited interest in the town of Soledar, which lies 10 kilometers northwest of Bakhmout. “This battle is often compared to Verdun, but on an operational level it has nothing to do with it», stressed Guillaume Ancel, a former officer and observer of the conflict in Ukraine. “SIf the Germans broke through at Verdun it gave them the possibility of a major attack on the other side of the line. In Soledar, this is not the case.explained the military analyst.

His capture by Russian forces, if proven, would “no operational impact», confirms the Institute for the Study of War which considers «not likely“than the Russian victory at Soledar”foreshadows the imminent siege of Russian Bakhmout“.

Then, why are you trying so hard to take this city? “Vladimir Putin originally wanted to conquer Ukraine and its capital Kyiv», Explains on his blog Guillaume Ancel. Following the failure of his special operation, he decided to “settle” in the east of the country, but the fronts were reversed and his troops even had to leave the Kherson region to avoid dislocation.“, he continued.

Wagner’s militia, called to the rescue, therefore “focused on securing local “victories,” success he (Evgueni Prigojine, Wagner boss, editor’s note) could offer his master, Vladimir Putin“. After targeting Bakhmout, a city of 60,000 inhabitants practically destroyed by months of fighting, the Russian forces”concentrated all their efforts in a small town that was six times smaller“. The challenge for the Kremlin is to book a win at all costs.

What are the consequences for the rest of the conflict?

However, if taking Soledar is “Not worth it“, He does not “not without consequences“, said Guillaume Ancel. There “victoireput forward by the Kremlin will have a certain moral and political impact on the Russian army. Vladimir Putin himself, speaking on Russian television on Sunday, welcomed the “positive dynamics”. “I hope that our fighters will still delight us more than once with their military results“, said the Russian president.

Faced with this massive communication, how will the Ukrainian general staff react? “They may not be fully determined in this matterexplained Guillaume Ancel, according to whom Western supporters advised against counterattacks in the small town of Kyiv. From a military standpoint, any leader would make a rational decision to step down. But there is a risk of media traps. If Kyiv gave up on Russian communications, it could turn into a death trap, as Russian artillery awaited them. It would be better for the Ukrainian troops to retake Kreminna in the North, or rush towards Zaporizhia in the South.”.

SEE ALSO – War in Ukraine: Bakhmout/Soledar, to a Russian trompe l’oeil victory?

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