London, Jan 10 (EFE).- Russian troops and units from the mercenary Wagner Group likely control most of the eastern Ukrainian town of Soledar, a strategic bastion to the north of Bakhmut, where fierce fighting is ongoing, British intelligence said Tuesday.
The United Kingdom’s defense ministry said in a report that part of the fighting was focused on the entry points of 200-kilometers of salt mine tunnels.
“Both sides are likely concerned that they could be used for infiltration behind their lines,” the ministry said.
“Russia’s Soledar axis is highly likely an effort to envelop Bakhmut from the north, and to disrupt Ukrainian lines of communication.”
It added: “In the last four days, Russian and Wagner forces have made tactical advances into the small Donbas town of Soledar and are likely in control of most of the settlement.”
The mining town is located just 10 kilometers to the north of Bakhmut, which is the center of a vicious battle between Ukraine and invading Russian forces.
Bakhmut is located on a vital crossroads linking the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which are collectively known as the Donbas, a region blighted by war and occupation since the pro-Russian uprising of 2014.
Russian control of Bakhmut would provide Moscow a staging point toward Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, two Ukrainian strongholds in Donetsk.
In his nightly address Monday, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, described the situation in Soledar as “extremely difficult.”
“There are almost no whole walls left,” he added, thanking Ukrainian soldiers for putting up resistance in the area.
“Due to the resilience of our warriors there, in Soledar, we have gained additional time and additional power for Ukraine.”
“The battle for Donbas continues. And although the invaders have now concentrated their greatest efforts on Soledar, the result of this difficult and long battle will be the liberation of our entire Donbas.” EFE