Intense fighting is raging in Soledar town of eastern Ukraine, with Kyiv forces mounting a last-ditch attempt to keep the control of the salt mining region. The Russian forces had made rapid gains on the key city up until Tuesday, with the mercenary Wagner group leading the fight from the front.
On Wednesday, Ukraine said Russia was not in control of Soledar, a salt mining town in the Donetsk region. "Battles are ongoing there ... The Armed Forces of Ukraine and other defense forces are regrouping," Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesman for Eastern Group of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said on Wednesday.
The Russian defence ministry confirmed that airborne units surrounded Soledar, culminating the months-long battle for the key town.
Earlier, Wagner militia chief Yevgeny Prigozhin had said his unit took control of Soledar but was facing some 'urban battles' in reference to Ukraine resistance. "Wagner units have taken control of the whole territory of Soledar," Prigozhin had said, according to AFP.
Control of Bakhmut
The control of Soledar is crucial for both sides as the Russia-Ukraine war enters the 11th month. Soledar is only 15 kilometres away from Bakhmut, which has been the focus of Russian strategy for several months. If Moscow's troops can take control of Bakhmut, they will be well positioned to advance to two more prominent targets, Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.
On Tuesday, the British defence ministry conceded that Russia had probably captured Soledar.
Meanwhile, Russia accused the US of open involvement in the war in Ukraine. Russia's ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov said the US decision to offer traininig to Ukrainian servicemen on the use of Patriot missile system confirms Washington's open involvement.
"The decision by the U.S. Department of Defense to organize training at Fort Sill in Oklahoma is another confirmation of Washington's de facto involvement in the Ukrainian conflict on the side of Nazi criminals from Kiev ... It is noteworthy that our efforts to bring to the attention of the American audience the true danger of such a line by the White House are step by step recognized by the local expert community," ," Antonov said.