Why Russia Wants to Capture Soledar, a Ukrainian Mining Town


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Russia claimed Friday to have completed its capture of the town Soledar in eastern Ukraine Friday after months of fighting in a brutal offensive that would hand the Kremlin its first significant battlefield gain since July after a wave of military setbacks.

Ukraine insists that the fighting was far from over. Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar described the phase of the war as being “difficult,” but the conflict in Soledar is “hot,” she wrote Friday on Telegram. “The enemy threw almost all the main forces in the direction of Donetsk and has maintained a high intensity of the offensive,” she said. “Our fighters are bravely trying to hold the defense.”

The battle for Soledar, a small salt-mining town, has emerged as a critical step in Moscow’s goal of encircling the key city of Bakhmut, a transportation hub under assault since August, and ultimately capturing the entire Donbas region. The fighting has intensified in recent weeks as the one-year anniversary of Russia’s unprovoked Feb. 24 invasion approaches, with Russia pummeling Soledad at the expense of steep losses to its own forces.

Amid competing claims over control of the city, images geolocated by the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based military research group, show Russian forces likely hold most, if not all, of Soledar, while pushing Ukrainian forces to the west.

Read More: Ukraine Dismisses Russia’s Declaration of a Holiday Ceasefire

Officials from both sides have referred to the battle as a “meat grinder,” with streets strewn with corpses of soldiers. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said earlier this week there was “almost no life” in Soledar and “no whole walls left” on any building in the mining town. “This is what madness looks like,” he said in a nightly video address on Monday.


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