Russia claims capture of Ukraine’s Soledar

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Russia said on Friday that its forces had taken control of Soledar in eastern Ukraine, in what would be a rare success for Moscow after months of battlefield reverses, but Kyiv said its troops were still fighting in the town.

Reuters could not immediately verify the situation in Soledar, a small salt-mining town that has for days been the focus of a relentless Russian assault.

Kyiv and the West have played down the town s significance, saying Moscow sacrificed wave upon wave of soldiers and mercenaries in a pointless fight for a bombed-out wasteland, unlikely to affect the wider war except insofar as the huge losses have sapped manpower on both sides.

But the capture of the town has taken on an outsized importance as it would, if confirmed, give Moscow a trophy for one of the bloodiest campaigns of the war following major battlefield setbacks throughout the second half of 2022.

“The capture of Soledar was made possible by the constant bombardment of the enemy by assault and army aviation, missile forces and artillery of a grouping of Russian forces,” Moscow s defence ministry said.

Seizing the town would make it possible to cut off Ukrainian supply routes to the nearby city of Bakhmut and trap remaining Ukrainian forces there, it said. Moscow has been trying to seize Bakhmut for months.

“The situation in Soledar is near critical – the city is semi-encircled. Only one road is left to supply our troops,” said Oleh Zhdanov, a military analyst based in Kyiv.

Zhdanov, speaking in a social media video, said Russia had brought in airborne troops as reinforcements in the battle.—Agencies