Plumes of smoke were seen over the town of Solar on Wednesday as the Russian and Ukrainian forces engaged in a war for the town. Occupying Soledar would be a big victory for Russia in its plan to capture the entire Donbas region.
Russian Claims of Control
Russian defence ministry on Wednesday said that airborne units had cut off Soledar from the north and the south. Ukraine’s defence ministry says otherwise. They denied the claims of losing Soledar, they said that the defence lines have not been breached. Serhiy Cherevatyi, the spokesperson for the eastern military command, told Ukrainian television the intensity of the battles was reminiscent of World War Two.
There has been no official message from Kremlin. Kremlins spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, “Let’s not rush, let’s wait for official statements. There is a positive dynamic in progress,”. when he was asked about the situation on the ground.
On Tuesday, the mercenary Wagner group, who lead the assault, claimed to have taken control of the Solar but also added that the pockets of Ukrainian resistance were holding at the centre.
Russian commanders have targeted Soledar as a platform to attack the nearby city of Bakhmut, which has held out for months against a Russian onslaught and is a hub for supply lines in eastern Ukraine. A victory in Soledar would have symbolic and commercial value for Moscow after setbacks since august.
Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar had said on Tuesday evening that fighting for the town was still raging and the Russians were taking heavy losses in waves of attacks.
“The approaches to our positions are simply strewn with the bodies of dead enemy fighters. Our fighters are bravely holding the defence,” she said.
Dmitry Pescov accepted that many Russian soldiers have been lost in this battle. “Although tactical successes are also very important, they come at a high price, at the cost of the fantastic heroism of our fighters,” he said.
Peskov reiterated previous Kremlin statements that President Vladimir Putin remained open to negotiations, and that Russia would prefer to achieve its goals by political and diplomatic means. But he also added that there was no immediate prospect of talks, given the positions of Ukraine and the West. They have dismissed Russian statements on talks as mere propaganda.
The head of the Wagner private militia, Putin ally Yevgeny Prigozhin, had said late on Tuesday that Wagner units had taken control of “the entire territory” of Solar although fighting was still going on in the town centre.
A Russian state news agency RIA reported that the Wagner group has taken over the salt mines of Solar.
Mr Denis Pushilin, leader of the Russian-controlled part of Donetsk province, said Soledar’s capture would open a prospect of seizing more significant towns further west in what Russia has recognised as the Donetsk People’s Republic – the centre of Ukrainian heavy industry and one of four provinces that Russia declared annexed three months ago.
“The opportunity to liberate Artyomovsk [Bakhmut] and Siversk is now multiplied. This is the long-awaited entry to the bridgehead of Kramatorsk, Sloviansk. And this is actually a turning point, now preparations are underway for the moment we have been waiting for – the liberation of the Donetsk People’s Republic.”
Reports from the Kherson military administration say that Russia still continues to attack the provincial capital. Over the past 24 hours, 40 infrastructure buildings and homes have been destroyed which also includes a children’s hospital. It has been 11 months since Russia invaded Ukraine and the war continues to rage.