KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s military has staged an orderly retreat from a city in the eastern Donbass region, an official said Wednesday, marking a rare but modest battlefield victory for the Kremlin. it started almost 11 months ago.
Serhiy Cherevatyi, the spokesman of Ukraine’s forces in the east, told the Associated Press that the Ukrainian army retreated from the city of Soledar, where it mined salt “to save the lives of its personnel.”
The soldiers returned to their prepared defensive positions, he said.
Moscow saw the battle for Soledar, near the city of Bakhmut, as the key to capturing the entire Donbass.
The breakthrough brought Russian forces a step closer to Bakhmut, but military analysts say the capture of Soledar is more symbolic than strategic.
Ukrainian troops who have resisted Ukraine’s month-long offensive in Soledar say their fierce defense of the eastern stronghold has helped hold Russian forces together.
Russia claimed to have captured Soledar almost two weeks ago, but Ukraine has denied this.
Most of the Russian forces around Soledar belong to the Russian private military contractor Wagner Group, and the fighting is reportedly getting bloody.
Since its invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has prioritized full control of the Donbass, which consists of the Donbass and Luhansk regions, which have supported separatist rebels since 2014. Russia has captured most of Luhansk, but about half of Donetsk remains. Under the control of Ukraine.
Taking control of the city would allow Russian forces to cut supply lines to Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut, but the strength of Ukraine’s new defensive positions is uncertain.
The Institute for War Studies in Washington said earlier this month that Soledar’s fall “would not be operationally significant and would not predict Russia’s imminent siege of Bakhmut.”
According to the institute, Russian intelligence operations “overstated the importance of Soledar,” a small settlement. He also claimed that the long and difficult battle had contributed to the exhaustion of the Russian forces.
Perhaps even more alarming for Moscow, Western military aid to Ukraine is now being bolstered by the supply of tanks.
Elsewhere, Russian forces continue to pound areas of Ukraine, particularly in the south and east.
Pavlo Kirilenko, governor of eastern Russia’s Donetsk province, said Tuesday that 10 civilians were wounded in the attack.
According to him, Russian shells hit apartment buildings and injured five people.
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said on Wednesday that Russian forces had launched four missile strikes, 26 airstrikes and more than 100 attacks from missile systems in the past 24 hours.
Russian forces are conducting offensive operations around the towns of Bakhmut, Lyman and Avdiivka and the village of Novopavlivka to establish control in the Donetsk province, spokesman Alexander Shtupun said.
In addition to Donetsk, Russia’s attacks have hit settlements in the country’s northeastern Kharkiv and Sumy provinces, northern Chernihiv, easternmost Luhansk, southeastern Zaporozhye, and southern Kherson provinces.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who rose from professional comedian to internationally recognized wartime leader, turned 45 on Wednesday.
“Something has changed: now you smile a lot less,” said his wife, first lady Jelena Zelenska, who is the same person he was when they met at 17.
“I wish you had more reasons to smile. And you know what you need. We all do,” he tweeted.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine