While Moscow has told the world that it now controls Soledar, Ukrainian officials have thrown doubt on these claims. They said that the victory claim is “information noise”, adding that fighting is still ongoing in the region.
Soledar has been a long fought-for region in eastern Ukraine. However, the strategic benefit of holding the town has been questioned by experts. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has said that Soledar is almost completely destroyed due to the conflict. His chief of staff Andriy Yermak also compared the battle for Soledar to one of the most famous battles of World War One in Verdun.
While most have been evacuated, the regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko has said that 559 civilians remain in the town. These civilians, which include 15 children, are said to be unable to move.
Where is Soledar?
Soledar is a small town in eastern Ukraine. The nearest city is Bakhmut, which is located 18km away.
Soledar is also located within the Donetsk Obast, one of the areas Russian forces claimed to have annexed when troops first moved over the border into Ukraine. As of January 2022, the population was almost 10,500, however most of these residents have been evacuated from the town amidst the heavy fighting.
The town is famous for its salt-mine. Since the 19th century, the main industry of the town has been salt mining, but during the recent conflict the deep tunnels have become beneficial for troops on either side.
What has Russia said about capturing Soledar?
The Russian military has said that it has taken control of Soledar, after a long and heavy battle with Ukrainian forces. The news will have been welcomed in Russia as an accomplishment in the war, with Ukraine displaying an unexpected level of strength in the conflict so far.
A spokesman for the Russian military said that forces would push ahead from Soledar to Bakhmut. They added that troops will attempt to cut off Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut.
What has Ukraine said about the battle for Soledar?
Moscow’s claims have been refuted by Ukraine. Andriy Yermak, head of the office of the president of Ukraine, said: “The situation is difficult, even very difficult. This is the battle of Verdun in the 21st century. The fighting has been going on for several months, but our fighters manage to hold their positions.
“The Russians release criminals from prisons who die as soon as they reach the frontline. Their bodies are left in place, they are not even removed, there are many human losses on the Russian side, much more than ours. We clearly value the lives of our soldiers more.
He added: “But before us is a human mass that is constantly attacking, attacking, attacking. Soledar is a place of street battles, where one of the parties does not control the city.
“The Russians are there, but they do not control the city. The situation is complicated, but our goal is to liberate our territories, fully restore the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”