Lviv/Moscow, Jan 9 (EFE).- Ukraine is struggling to fend off Russia’s offensive in the eastern town of Soledar, where units of Moscow’s mercenary Wagner Group say they have made inroads into that strategic bastion.
“The enemy again made a desperate attempt to storm the city of Soledar from different directions and threw into battle the most professional units of the ‘Wagnerites,'” the commander of the Ukranian military’s ground forces, Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, said Monday.
Russian troops have intensified their attacks on Soledar because control of that salt-mining town – and of neighboring Bakhmut – would clear the way for a further assault on Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.
Those latter two cities are Ukraine’s main strongholds in Donetsk, a province that is part of the mostly Russian-speaking Donbas region.
After a visit on Sunday to Soledar, Syrskyi said that “thanks to the courage of our defenders, the skillful and competent use of fire defeat, the enemy suffered significant losses and once again retreated.”
Serhiy Cherevaty, spokesman for Ukraine’s East command, said for his part Sunday on Ukrainian public television that intense fighting was taking place in Soledar.
Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, Hanna Maliar, acknowledged meanwhile that the situation in the East is “difficult.”
“In some parts of Donetsk region, we are moving forward and in some enemy is advancing. Not only regular army, but also private,” she added.
Maliar added that the Russians have concentrated considerable forces in eastern Ukraine with a view to launching an offensive aimed at taking full control of that region.
Separately, Russian forces on Monday announced they had seized control of Bakhmutske, a village located south of Soledar and about eight kilometers (five miles) from Bakhmut, which is a key hub Kyiv relies on to resupply its forces in eastern Ukraine.
Apti Alaudinov, commander of Chechen forces fighting for Moscow, predicted that Russia would take control of Soledar and Bakhmut “in the next few days” thanks to the efforts of the Wagner Group’s units.
That mercenary group reported for its part that it is fighting in Soledar for control of the local administrative building.
Russia’s Defense Ministry, however, said only that Russian forces were continuing their offensive in Donetsk.
Meanwhile, Ukraine is hopeful that fresh supplies of weapons from the West will enable it to beat back the Russian offensive.
Last Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed the announcement that the United States will provide a new military aid package totaling more than $3 billion and that Germany and France also are providing more defense aid.
“Finally, we can say that we have managed to bring Ukraine’s strength and defense cooperation with partners to a new level, the one we really need right now,” he said then. “Now our soldiers will have even more weapons, equipment, rounds, defense systems, which will make us much more prepared for any escalating plans of Russia and those strikes that the terrorist state inflicts.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, however, downplayed the West’s plans to provide armored fighting vehicles and other additional military assistance to Ukraine.
“These deliveries cannot and will not change anything in Ukraine” and will only “prolong the suffering” of the Ukrainian people, he said. EFE