War Russia: The Ukrainian army admits the withdrawal of Soledar | International
The Ukrainian army has admitted on Wednesday to have ceded the city of Soledar, in the east of the country, to Russian forces, two weeks after the announcement of its capture by Moscow. It is Russia’s first success on the battlefield in the Donbas region since early July. “After months of heavy fighting (…), the Ukrainian Armed Forces have thrown in the towel to withdraw to other positions,” Ukrainian military spokesman for the eastern zone Sergi Tcherevati told Agence France Presse, who has not specified, however, when the withdrawal took place. “[Nuestras fuerzas] They fulfilled their main task: not to allow the enemy to break in systematically in the direction of Donetsk,” added Tcherevati, quoted by the Ukrainian state channel, according to Reuters. Donetsk is the capital of the province of the same name under the control of Moscow and pro-Russian separatists since 2014. Ukrainian troops are on the outskirts of the city.
The Russian Wagner paramilitary group announced that it had taken Soledar on January 11. Two days later, the Russian army did. Control of this municipality, with some 11,000 pre-war inhabitants, known for its salt mines, and in Donetsk province, is a key victory for Moscow in its effort to take neighboring Bakhmut. The battle for that city is one of the bloodiest of the war and has been involving a huge deployment of resources and a great loss of life for both armies since the summer. Russia tries to besiege Bakhmut on the north flank, that of Soledar, and on the south.
Wagner’s mercenaries took most of Soledar on January 6 in a surprise attack, coinciding with the Christmas ceasefire announced by the Russian president. Since then, Ukrainian forces have been fighting from the western perimeter of the municipality. They are still fighting in the same area today, although they are already outside the urban core. kyiv has strengthened the defensive line between Soledar and the highway connecting Bakhmut with Sloviansk. The objective of the invading troops is to cut off the Ukrainian military supply along this road and encircle Bakhmut on the eastern flank.
kyiv had so far refused to concede defeat in this town. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) analysis center has estimated that the advance on Soledar is not “significant”.
The withdrawal from Soledar has been carried out in a “controlled manner, without encirclement or massive capture of our soldiers”, Tcherevati has assured, who has denied any “leak” of the Ukrainian military. Before retreating, the Ukrainian troops “inflicted heavy casualties” on the Russians, the military spokesman continued, stressing that the Ukrainian strategy in this area was “to wear down the enemy.”
A Russian occupation officer in eastern Ukraine said Wednesday that his troops have advanced on the Bakhmut front, citing the capture of Soledar as a determining factor. However, according to Tcherevati, these claims “do not correspond to reality.” “The fight continues. The situation is difficult, but it is under control,” the spokesperson added.
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CNN reported on Tuesday that there is mounting pressure from Washington on kyiv to end its Numantine defense of Bakhmut because, while it is causing enormous depletion of Wagner’s force, it is also decimating Ukrainian resources in an enclave that , if lost, does not make a significant change in the war. Ukraine sees it differently. The Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Valeri Zaluzhni, recalled that every kilometer that is lost, then it costs more to recover it. In fact, defending, according to military theory, requires three times less military power than attacking.
Oleksyi Melnik, deputy director of the Razumkov Center for Defense Studies, explained to EL PAÍS that for Russia, the taking of Bakhmut is above all a political milestone after months of setbacks on the battlefield. For Ukraine, according to Melnik, it is a mixture of political strategy and military operation because, if Bakhmut is lost, the last Ukrainian bastion in Donetsk would be the urban nucleus formed by Kramatorsk and Sloviansk. Bakhmut’s importance to Ukraine became clear last December when President Volodimir Zelensky made a surprise visit to the city, despite the heavy shelling that accompanied his stay there.
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