Russian troops have stepped up an assault on the town of Soledar in eastern Ukraine, forcing Ukrainian troops to repel waves of attacks led by mercenary forces, officials in Kyiv said.
Britain’s defense ministry said on Tuesday that Russia and forces of the Wagner contract group were probably now in control of most of the small salt mining town after advances in the last four days.
Soledar, in the industrial Donbas region, lies a few kilometres from Bakhmut, where troops from both sides have been taking heavy losses in some of the most intense trench warfare since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly 11 months ago.
“Russia’s Soledar axis is highly likely an effort to envelop Bakhmut from the north, and to disrupt Ukrainian lines of communication,” Britain said in an intelligence brief.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly video address on Monday that Bakhmut and Soledar were holding on despite widespread destruction.
He cited new and fiercer attacks in Soledar, where he said no walls have been left standing and the land was covered with Russian corpses.
“Everything is completely destroyed … the whole land in Soledar is covered with corpses of the invaders and is scarred from the explosions,” the Ukrainian leader said.
“Thanks to the resilience of our soldiers in Soledar, we have won for Ukraine additional time and additional strength,” Zelensky said. He did not spell out what he meant by gaining time or strength.