The United Kingdom claims Russia now has the majority of control over the town of Soledar, which had previously been bombarded with salt mines.
According to the UK Ministry of Defense, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky declared that “almost no life” remains in Soledar after a drawn-out fight between Ukrainian and Russian forces.
“This is what madness looks like,” he added.
It is believed that the Russian Wagner Group and their founder Yevgeny Prigozhin are aiming to acquire control of the mines in the region, which are abundant in salt and gypsum. The US Department of Defense stated that a “good portion” of Soledar is now in Russian possession. The battle for Bakhmut has been ongoing for months, with the US official characterizing the recent skirmishes as “savage.”
— Tw¡tter_Trends (@Twetter_Trends) January 9, 2023
Two British nationals, Andrew Bagshaw and Christopher Parry have gone missing in the region after they were last seen traveling to Soledar. Ukrainian military personnel was able to ward off attacks on thirteen towns, including Soledar and Bakhmut, on Monday.
Despite the lengthy and intense battle, Oleh Zhdanov, a well-known Ukrainian military analyst, believes that neither Soledar nor Bakhmut are especially significant in the operational sense. Instead, he said that Russia is simply “trying to prove to the whole world that its army is capable of winning.”
The Institute for the Study of War in the US has said that Prigozhin will use the success of the Wagner Group in Soledar and Bakhmut to promote them as the only Russian force in Ukraine capable of gaining substantial ground.
Meanwhile, Ukraine has rejected the accusation put forth by Russia that it was responsible for the death of 600 soldiers one day prior. Instead, the Russians are alleged to have launched fire despite the peace agreement made by President Putin three days ago. President Zelensky paid a visit to the combat zone in Bakhmut, located on the front line, on the Dec. 20 last year.
Could Soledar Be a Critical Turning Point for Russia?
Russia’s control over the town of Soledar could serve as a platform for regaining its control over other areas close by, such as Bakhmut. However, in order to do this, Russia must first gain complete control of Soledar through a strategic offensive campaign.
According to reports, Russia has invested heavily in its armed forces in the Donbas region and beyond, making it one of Europe’s most militarily powerful states. This wealth of military power allowed Russia to launch a successful assault on Soledar that could lead to a successful recapture of the town and open roads into Bakhmut.
— Feher_Junior (@Feher_Junior) January 10, 2023
To secure victory, Russia would need to use tactics such as aerial bombardment, strategic land maneuvers, and superior firepower. For example, airstrikes could be used to target Ukrainian forces stationed in or around Soledar while ground forces move in on multiple fronts. This would allow Russian troops to spread out their resources across the map rather than focusing them on capturing one area at a time. Additionally, reports from The Guardian state that “Russian forces have access to some of the most advanced weaponry available—including air defense systems and long-range artillery pieces—which can help them overwhelm Ukrainian troops defending the towns and cities being targeted by Russian offensives.” This superior firepower will give Russian forces an advantage over their Ukrainian counterparts regarding besieging towns like Soledar and reclaiming them for Moscow’s interests.
Another critical factor that could contribute towards a successful recapture of Soledar is intelligence gathering and reconnaissance operations conducted by Russian intelligence services such as GRU or FSB. These organizations should be tasked with collecting information regarding Ukrainian military positions in or around Soledar so that Russian forces can effectively plan their attack strategy before launching any offensive campaigns against Ukrainian troops stationed there. as noted in reports, the rise of modern technology has enabled more precise targeting for artillery fire and airstrikes, giving Moscow an edge over Kyiv when it comes to waging war on the battlefield. This technological advantage could prove instrumental in helping Russian forces identify targets before engaging them on the battlefield, allowing them to minimize casualties on both sides while increasing their chances of gaining control over strategic points like Soledar.
Ultimately, suppose Russians are able to execute all these aspects successfully. In that case, they might have a chance at regaining their control over Bakhmut by recapturing nearby lands like Soledar, which were previously held by Ukrainians before being engulfed in salt mines due to bombardments from both sides during times of warring conflict between themselves and Ukraine.
Ukraine Defense Line
The area around Bakhmut is particularly concerned for Ukraine due to its proximity to Russian territories and presence as a transportation hub. As such, Ukrainian troops have been sent to the area to bolster the existing defenses and ensure any potential incursions are repelled. The remainder of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has also been put on alert in case further action is required.
Smoke from positions of Ukrainian forces between Soledar and Bakhmut.
Dropping some serious bombs by the Russian Air Force. pic.twitter.com/MS95mRj0zZ
— Trollstoy (@Trollstoy88) January 9, 2023
Ukraine had significantly improved in terms of military capability since 2014, when it was forced to fight off an initial attack from pro-Russian separatists backed by Moscow. Today, the country is equipped with modern weaponry, such as air defense systems and armored vehicles, which it can use to repel future attacks. Furthermore, NATO support has been consistent throughout this conflict, providing both military aid and political pressure on Russia to contain any incursion into Ukrainian territory.
On top of this, local citizens have also taken up arms to defend their hometowns from occupation by foreign forces. Civilian militias have formed all over eastern Ukraine, claiming several victories against Russian-backed forces in recent years despite being heavily outgunned and outnumbered (Reuters). These militia fighters remain committed to repelling any further attempts at the occupation and will undoubtedly prove invaluable reinforcements for Ukrainian troops within Bakhmut’s immediate vicinity.
However, it remains unclear if these measures are sufficient, given that Moscow maintains their right to intervene militarily within former Soviet states like Ukraine (Council on Foreign Relations). Should they decide to do so again, then they could easily overwhelm the current defenses set in place by Kyiv despite these preparations. Ultimately only time will tell if Ukraine can successfully defend Bakhmut against any new incursions as tensions continue between both sides with no end in sight.