kyiv, Ukraine (AP) — The Russian Defense Ministry announced Friday that its forces have captured the eastern Ukrainian salt-producing city of Soledar, the scene of months of bloody battle between Russian and Ukrainian forces.
Ukrainian authorities did not immediately confirm the Russian advance on the city in the eastern province of Donetsk, one of four Ukrainian regions the Kremlin illegally annexed in September.
Soledar’s downfall would be a rare victory for Moscow after a series of battlefield defeats in its invasion of Ukraine. Since the start of the operation in February, the Kremlin has identified Donetsk and neighboring Luhansk — which form Donbas, the country’s industrial heartland — as its priorities and has treated both provinces as Russian territory since the alleged annexation.
“The liberation of the city of Soledar was completed on the night of January 12,” said Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Russian ministry, adding that the advance was “important for the continuation of offensive operations in the Donetsk region. ”.
Controlling Soledar would allow Russian forces to “cut off the supply lines of Ukrainian troops” in the city of Bakhmut, also in the province, and then “block and encircle Ukrainian units there,” Konashenkov said.
For its part, the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, indicated that Moscow’s conquest of Soledar “is not an operationally significant advance and is unlikely to herald an imminent Russian encirclement in Bakhmut”.
Communications from the Kremlin have “overstated the importance of Soledar,” which is a small settlement, the institute noted, adding that the long and complicated battle has contributed to the depletion of Russian forces.