Jan 13 (Reuters) – Russia declared on Friday that its forces had taken control of the eastern Ukrainian town of Soledar, claiming to have scored its first major battlefield victory after half a year of military setbacks.
Russia’s military seized the city, long the focus of heavy fighting and shelling, on Thursday night, according to the country’s Defense Ministry.
This would allow Ukrainian supply routes to the larger city of Bakhmut to the southwest to be cut, and the remaining Ukrainian forces trapped there.
Reuters could not immediately verify Russia’s claim, which came after days of silence from the ministry on the fate of the city.
The head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner had said on Wednesday that his forces had achieved the complete “liberation” of the mining town of Soledar, a claim denied by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who said fighting was continuing.
“The capture of Soledar was made possible by the constant bombardment of the enemy by assault and army aircraft, missile forces and artillery from a grouping of Russian forces,” the Russian Defense Ministry stated.
Ukraine declared early Friday that its forces were still holding out in Soledar after a night of heavy fighting, on what has become one of the bloodiest battlefields of the entire war.
Both sides have suffered heavy losses in the battle for the small town.
(Reuters reporting; editing by Gareth Jones and Mark Trevelyan; editing in Spanish by Dario Fernández)