Ukraine Says Russian Claims About Control Of Soledar Untrue, Fighting Continues
The Ukrainian military and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy say claims by Russia’s Wagner group that Russian forces have taken the eastern town of Soledar are false and fighting continues.
“The terrorist state and its propagandists are trying to claim that part of our city of Soledar is some kind of Russian possession,” Zelenskiy said in a January 11 video address.
“But the fighting continues. The theater of operations in Donetsk continues.”
In a separate statement, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine also said that fighting continues. The statement said that in order to bring the entire Donetsk region under its control, the Russian army is trying to attack nearby Bakhmut and cut off the supply routes to Soledar.
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The General Staff said earlier that the Russians were suffering heavy losses as they tried to take the salt mining town.
The head of the Vagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said on January 11 that his forces had taken control of Soledar.
“I want to confirm the complete liberation and clearing of Soledar territory by Ukrainian army units… Ukrainian units that did not want to surrender were destroyed,” he said in a statement.
Wagner forces “killed about 500 people,” he said, adding that Soledar is littered with the corpses of Ukrainian soldiers.
Ukraine had earlier denied claims by a private Russian military group that it had taken control of the city.
“The city is not under the control of the Russian Federation. Fierce battles are taking place now,” Serhiy Cherevatiy, spokesman for the eastern military command, said on Ukrainian television.
“There is a complicated situation there… The intensity of the battles near Bakhmut can be compared to World War II,” he added.
The Russian Defense Ministry noted that paratroopers had blocked areas north and south of Soledar, but added that fighting was continuing inside the city.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there was a “positive dynamic in developments” but quickly added that officials should not “rush” to declare victory.
Ukraine’s General Staff claimed on January 11 that Russia had lost around 490 soldiers the day before. He said these casualties raised the estimated death toll on the Russian side to nearly 113,000.
Each side in the conflict has classified its casualty figures, and Radio Free Europe could not corroborate either side’s accounts of battlefield developments in the areas of the heaviest fighting.
The capture of Soledar and its salt mines would have symbolic, military and commercial value for Russia and would be Moscow’s most substantial gain in months.
Photo Gallery: Salt of the Earth: Deep inside the Soledar Mass Mines of Eastern Ukraine
Russian forces in Ukraine are trying to capture the eastern salt mining town of Soledar in an ongoing offensive that Kiev’s Defense Ministry has described as “manic”. In 2019, Radio Free Europe’s Amos Chapple visited Soledar as the salt mining operation hoped to hit Western markets.
As the battle for Soledar raged, Russia announced on January 11 that it has once again replaced the commander of its forces in Ukraine.
Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov was appointed to oversee the invasion in a reshuffle announced by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
Gerasimov replaces Sergei Surovik, who will become one of Gerasimov’s three deputies, the ministry said.
Ukraine’s General Staff said early on January 11 that its troops had fought off Russian attacks in three eastern regions.
He also reminded Ukrainians across the country to be alert for possible long-range airstrikes, although the pace of such Russian bombing of civilian and infrastructure targets has eased since the massive bombings in late December and early January.
The British Ministry of Defense’s daily intelligence assessment on January 11 noted the announcement of a joint Russian-Belarusian tactical air exercise in the second half of January.
Addressing persistent fears of a full-scale escalation of the 10-month-old conflict, Britain’s Ministry of Defense speculated that a new deployment of Russian jets to Ukraine’s northern neighbor Belarus “is likely to be a genuine exercise, rather than a preparation for any additional offensive operations against Ukraine”.
Russia’s invasion was staged in part in Moscow’s ally Belarus, although leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka has tried to downplay his regime’s role in the conflict.
Kiev’s defense commander, Lt. Gen. Oleksiy Pavlyuk, said on January 10 that Ukraine’s military had strengthened its defensive positions north of the city and was preparing for a possible offensive from across the border near Belarus.
Amid fierce fighting in the eastern Donetsk region, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock made a surprise visit to the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on January 10, promising to send more weapons less than a week after Berlin was pledged to send infantry fighting vehicles that Ukraine had. has asked.
Baerbock promised further support before leaving Kharkiv, which was hit by Russian bombing after she left.
“The occupiers are striking again,” Kharkiv Governor Oleh Synehubov said on Telegram, telling residents to stay in shelters.
Baerbock stressed that Ukrainians “must know that they can count on our solidarity and support,” adding that Germany will continue to supply weapons “that Ukraine needs to liberate its citizens who are still suffering from the terror of Russian occupation.” .