The Russians intensify their offensive on Soledar, in the East

by Pavel Polityuk and Vladyslav Smilianets

KYIV/SIVERSK, Ukraine (Reuters) – Russian forces are stepping up their offensive on the town of Soledar in eastern Ukraine, forcing the Ukrainian military to repel successive assaults by mercenaries from the Wagner Group, reports said Ukrainian officials in Kyiv.

The British Ministry of Defense estimated in its daily update that the Russians probably now control a large part of the mining town after having gained ground in the past four days.

Soledar, located in the industrial region of Donbass, is a few kilometers from Bakhmout, where both sides have suffered heavy losses for months in a fierce trench battle.

The city is home to salt mines and miles of underground galleries that could house troops or equipment.

“Russia’s push towards Soledar is likely aimed at encircling Bakhmout from the north and disrupting Ukrainian lines of communication,” British military intelligence said.

In his daily video message, Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky said Bakhmut and Soledar were holding their ground despite widespread destruction.

“NOBODY COMES TO PICK UP THE BODY”

“Thanks to the resilience of our soldiers in Soledar, we have gained time and strength,” said the head of state, without specifying what he meant by this expression. No wall is standing and the ground is covered with Russian corpses, Volodimir Zelensky added.

“They (the Russians) attack our positions in waves, but the rule is that the wounded die where they fall, or from exposure because it’s very cold, or from bleeding. No one comes to help them or pick up the corpses,” Ukrainian military expert Oleh Zhdanov said on YouTube, calling the fighting in Soledar and Bakhmout the “most intense on the entire front line.”

In a center for evacuees in Kramatorsk, a few dozen kilometers away, Olga, 60, says she fled Soledar after moving from apartment to apartment, each time destroyed in tank battles.

“Not a single house is intact. Apartments are burning, breaking in two,” she says.

Ukrainian officials, starting with the commander-in-chief of the Kyiv forces, General Valery Zalouzhniy, have warned that Russia is preparing a new offensive in Ukraine, possibly in the direction of Kyiv.

Volodimir Zelensky is working on his side to try to obtain new weapons from his Western allies.

“I am sure that our soldiers on the front will have these weapons and equipment very soon,” he said Monday after meeting with Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala.

France, Germany and the United States announced last week the delivery to Ukraine of armored fighting vehicles long requested by Kyiv.

Britain is also considering sending tanks to Ukraine, for the first time, Sky News reported, information not confirmed at this stage by the British Ministry of Defence.

(With Reuters offices, French version Jean-Stéphane Brosse, editing by Blandine Hénault)

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