Russian MoD Announces Liberation of Soledar
10:34 GMT 13.01.2023 (Updated: 11:34 GMT 13.01.2023)
© Sputnik / Natalia SeliverstovaRussian Defense Ministry building at Frunzenskaya Embankment in Moscow
© Sputnik / Natalia Seliverstova/
The area around the strategic town, situated in the Donetsk People's Republic's northeast, has seen heavy fighting in recent days. The Soledar Salt Mine - opened in the 19th century and featuring a vast 201 km network of tunnels dug up to 288 meters underground, is the largest salt mine in Europe.
Russia's Ministry of Defense has announced the complete liberation of the town of Soledar, saying the capture of the strategic settlement will make it possible to cut off supply routes used by Ukrainian forces in nearby Artemovsk (which was renamed Bakhmut by Ukraine's post-coup government in 2016).
According to the MoD's figures, over 700 Ukrainian troops were killed and 300 pieces of weaponry, including three planes and a helicopter, were destroyed in fighting for Soledar over the past three days. Russian air defenses were said to have shot down nine HIMARS, Olha and Uragan rockets in the course of fighting.
"The liberation of the settlement of Soledar, important for the continuation of successful offensive operations in the Donetsk region, was completed on the evening of January 12," MoD spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a briefing on Friday.
The Russian military said the capture of Soledar was made possible thanks to constant strikes by army aviation, rocket and artillery units, which pinned down Ukrainian forces and prevented the transfer of reserves and the delivery of ammunition, and blocked attempts to withdraw to new defensive lines. At the same time, Konashenkov said, Russian Airborne Forces occupied dominant heights and blockaded the town from the north and south.
10 January 2023, 15:00 GMT
According to Konashenkov, the liberation of Soledar will allow Russian forces to block Ukrainian forces in the region and pocket them in a cauldron.
The first days of 2023 witnessed heavy fighting for Soledar between Russian and Ukrainian forces, with DPR head Denis Pushilin announcing Tuesday that the city center was under the control of fighters from Wagner Group, a Russian private military company.
DPR lawmaker Vladislav Berdichevsky told Sputnik Thursday that the victory at Soledar opened the door for the liberation of the remainder of the Donbass, and that the battle for the town itself had created a mini-cauldron containing Ukrainian troops.
Ukrainian forces aided by US and NATO advisors spent years building up a complex network of fortifications and entrenchments in the Donbass, and have used these positions to launch indiscriminate artillery and rocket attacks into the areas of the region controlled by the Donbass People's Militias and Russian forces. Donetsk's major settlements, including the city of Donetsk itself, continue to experience severe shelling, often using US-made artillery and HIMARS rounds, on almost a daily basis, with the intensity of fire becoming the worst in 2022 since 2014-2015.
Russia kicked off a military operation in Ukraine in February 2022 amid concerns that Kiev was preparing to launch an all-out offensive against the Donbass. In the weeks leading up to the escalation, the Donbass republics experienced a dramatic increase in Ukrainian shelling and sabotage attacks and attempted assassinations, and the regions' leaders ordered the evacuation of the civilian population to Russia. The crisis in the Donbass was complemented by heightened tensions between Moscow and NATO in late 2021 and early 2022, with the alliance rejecting a pair of comprehensive security proposals tabled by Russia to dramatically ease the strain - on the condition that the US-led military bloc give up its ambition to expand further east toward Russia's borders, including into Ukraine.