Ukraine has confirmed that its forces have withdrawn from the disputed town of Soledar, in the eastern Donetsk region. Soledar is a small pre-war salt mining town of just 10,000 where an intense battle has been fought and whose capture was announced by Russia in the middle of the month in what is seen as a modest victory, more symbolic than strategic, for Moscow. .
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Serhiy Cherevatyi, spokesman for the Eastern Group of Forces of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, explained that the decision was made to preserve the lives of the soldiers after months of heavy fighting, although he did not specify when the withdrawal occurred.
“To save the lives of the personnel, the defense forces withdrew from Soledar and entrenched themselves within the previously prepared defense borders. Soledar’s defenders did a real feat,” he said, according to the Ukrainian news agency Ukrinform. “Even though the enemy’s advantage was three to five times, they firmly held their positions. They inflicted huge manpower losses on the enemy, which can be compared to the losses of the aggressor in the two Chechen wars.”
After months of military setbacks, Russia’s Defense Ministry said on January 13 that its troops had taken control of Soledar. However, Ukraine reiterated that the battle was continuing. In its statement, Moscow spoke of an “important” step in its offensive, but Western analysts have questioned the relevance of Soledar, saying his capture is a “pyrrhic” tactical victory with great attrition to which Russia has dedicated significant resources.
The Russian forces and the Wagner mercenary group managed to advance on this town near Bakhmut, the largest and the focus of a fierce and costly battle for months that has devastated this city. Moscow troops are currently trying to advance on Bakhmut.
In addition to the involvement of the Wagner mercenary group, a characteristic of the fighting in this area is that some of it took place around the entrances to disused salt mine tunnels that extend some 200 kilometers below the area.
Questioned strategic value
Moscow has assured that the capture of Soledar is “of great importance” to “continue the successful offensive operations in the direction of Donetsk” and “allows the blocking of the supply routes of the Ukrainian forces” in Bakhmut, located to the southwest, “as well as to block and bag the units of the Ukrainian armed forces that are still there.”
However, analysts think tank The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) believes that the seizure of Soledar is not “operationally significant” and is unlikely to herald an imminent Russian encirclement of Bakhmut, located some 10 kilometres.
“Russian information operations have exaggerated the importance of Soledar, which is at best a Russian pyrrhic tactical victory,” the ISW said a few days ago, which believes that the capture of Soledar will not allow Russian forces to exercise control. over critical Ukrainian land lines of communication to Bakhmut or better position Russian forces to encircle the city in the short term. “Russian forces may decide to maintain a high and constant rate of assaults in the Bakhmut area, but the degraded combat power of Russian forces and accumulated exhaustion will prevent these assaults from producing operationally significant results.”
The United States has argued that even if both Bakhmut and Soledar fall to the Russians, “it’s not going to have a strategic impact on the war itself,” and “it’s not going to stop the Ukrainians or slow them down.”
The fighting around Bakhmut has raged for months and was described by a senior US defense official as “wild”, with back and forth fighting and lines of trenches.
There are those who have disputed the strategic value of Bakhmut, although he does have symbolic importance to both sides. Moscow could claim its capture as a victory after months of battlefield setbacks with retreats near Kharkiv in the northeast and Kherson in the south.
As reported on Tuesday by CNNThe US and the West “are urging” Ukraine to shift its focus on Bakhmut and instead prioritize a possible offensive in the south, “using a different style of fighting that takes advantage of the billions of dollars in new military equipment recently compromised by the Western allies. US and Western sources told the network that there is “a tactical opportunity” ahead of spring.
In a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl, they said, according to sources familiar with the conversation. to CNN, that the US wants to help Ukraine move away from the type of “pitched battle of attrition being waged in Bakhmut and focus instead on a style of mechanized maneuver warfare that uses rapid and unforeseen movements against Russia,” the chain reports. .
During their invasion, Vladimir Putin’s troops have tried to seize the entire Lugansk and Donetsk regions, the territory claimed by pro-Russian separatists and make up Donbas, in the east of the country and whose annexation was announced by Russia in a movement condemned internationally. .
Russia’s eastern offensive captured almost all of Lugansk over the summer, but Donetsk escaped the same fate, and the Russian military has poured resources around Bakhmut, the capture of which could open a route for Russian forces to push towards Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, key strongholds. Ukrainians in Donetsk.
Source: elDiario.es – elDiario.es by www.eldiario.es.
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