Russian invasion: mercenary group Wagner announces capture of Soledar

Russian invasion
Mercenary group Wagner announces capture of Soledar

Ukrainian soldiers administer first aid to a wounded soldier at a shelter in Soldedar. photo

© Roman Chop/AP/dpa

According to their own statement, the Russian mercenary group Wagner has gained a foothold in the hard-fought Soledar. Ukrainian military observers are skeptical.

After days of heavy fighting for the eastern Ukrainian town of Soledar, members of the notorious Russian mercenary troupe Wagner announced the conquest of the town. According to the Russian state agency TASS, Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed last night that Soledar had been conquered. A group of Ukrainian soldiers was still surrounded in the center of the village.

Ukrainian military observers called the statement “cheap propaganda”. The Ukrainian units have withdrawn to new positions and there can be no question of an encirclement. There was initially no official statement from the Ukrainian leadership. The Russian military also made no official statement on the matter.

Around ten and a half months after the Russian attack on Ukraine, the fighting in Donetsk is currently particularly fierce. The cities of Soledar and Bakhmut are of strategic importance: they are part of the Ukrainian defensive wall in front of the conurbation between Slovjansk and Kramatorsk. From the Russian point of view, taking the territory would be a significant step towards conquering the entire Donbass – one of the Kremlin’s war aims.

Ultimatum to surrender

In addition to regular Russian troops, various mercenary units also fight at Soledar, including the notorious Wagner Group. “The number of prisoners of war will be announced tomorrow,” Prigozhin was quoted as saying on one of the Wagner channels on Telegram. There it was also said that the surrounded Ukrainian soldiers had been given an ultimatum to surrender by midnight. The information could not initially be independently verified.

There was initially no comment from the Ukrainian side. Shortly before, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had praised the defenders of Soledar for their courage and steadfastness in his daily video message. “Thank you, warrior!” Zelenskyj said.

In the early evening, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maljar reported on violent assaults by Russian troops. “Heavy fighting in defense of Soledar continues,” she said on Telegram. “Regardless of their casualties, the enemy continues to attack.” The area in front of the Ukrainian defense lines was “littered with the bodies of the attackers”.


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