The Russians have almost entirely occupied Soledar

Russian forces they are advancing on Soledar, a small town in eastern Ukraine where the bulk of the fighting in the region has been concentrated in recent days, with heavy losses on both sides. Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin who commands the Wagner mercenary group and is managing the offensive, said on Wednesday that all of Soledar had been occupied by the Russians. However, the Ukrainian authorities have denied, and Prigozhin himself has admitted that the fighting is continuing: that in the center of the small town there is still a nucleus of Ukrainian soldiers who are resisting, even if it is probable that the Russian conquest is only a matter of weather.

Russia’s occupation of Soledar would, in fact, be the first victory for Russian forces since August last year. It would still be a very small victory: Soledar is a town of about 10,000 inhabitants. Its conquest could have an economic significance (in the area there is one of the largest salt mines in Europe) but not a particular strategic value: Soledar is simply one of the inhabited centers close to the largest town of Bakhmut, which is a little more of 15 kilometers and which the Russian army is trying to conquer for months now.

For some days Soledar has been the center of the toughest clashes between the Ukrainian army and the Russian forces: on the side of Russia, more than the regular army, it is fighting the Wagner groupa Russian government-affiliated mercenary agency that has hired convicts and ex-military men, among others.

The battle for Soledar (and more generally for Bakhmut) is causing huge losses on both sides. Oleh Zhdanov, a Ukrainian military analyst, he said that the battle is “the most intense in the entire front line”. Russians and Ukrainians are fighting house to house and in very difficult conditions, with temperatures well below zero. On Tuesday Hanna Maliar, the deputy defense minister of Ukraine, he said that “the vicinity of our positions is covered with the bodies of enemy soldiers”.

On Tuesday alone, Soledar was subjected to 86 artillery shelling by Russian forces.

It is not entirely clear why the Wagner group is attacking Soledar to such an extent. Conquering him is obviously part of the attempt to encircle Bakhmut, but neither urban center has any particular strategic value, according to most experts. After months of fighting, however, they have now taken on a significant symbolic value.

One of the possible explanations for the fury against Soledar and Bakhmut lies in the fact that Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner group who is also a very influential businessman and politician in Russia, is trying to obtain a personal military victory, to increase his own prestige in Russia. During the war, Prigozhin became by far the most powerful person in Russia after Putin, and in recent months he has assumed an informal defense minister role, often influencing strategic decisions throughout the military and overshadowing Sergei Shoigu. the defense minister.

The Russians have almost entirely occupied Soledar – Il Post