Battle rages in Ukraine town; Russia shakes up its military

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – The fate of a devastated salt mining town in eastern Ukraine will remain for the rest of Wednesday in one of the bloodiest battles of the Russian invasion, as the failed resistance of Ukraine and other challenges have forced Moscow to shake up its military leadership. .

The Russian military used aircraft, mortars and rockets to bombard Soledar in an indiscriminate attack.

Soledar’s defeat, while unlikely to be a turning point in the nearly 11-month war, will be a boon for the Kremlin, which has been starved of positive news on the battlefield in recent months. It also gives Russian troops a springboard to conquer other areas of Donetsk province remains under Ukrainian control, such as the nearby strategic city of Bakhmut.

Donetsk and the neighboring province of Luhansk, which together make up the Donbas region bordering Russia, are Moscow’s main regional targets in an attack on Ukraine, but the fighting has largely been stalemated.

In recognition of the problems on the battlefield, the Ministry of Defense of Russia announced the reduction of the head of the Russian military in Ukraine after only three months in the operation. The head of the Russian army — the chief of the army’s General Staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov — appointed to replace General Sergei Surovikin, demoted to second in command.

During his brief tenure in command of the military in Ukraine, Surovikin was tasked with strengthening coordination, strengthening governance and introducing a program to strike down Ukraine’s public apparatus as a way to press. But he also announced an embarrassing withdrawal in November from Kherson, the only regional center captured by Russian forces just weeks after the Kremlin illegally annexed the region. . His resignation signaled that Russian President Vladimir Putin was not satisfied with his performance.

Meanwhile, Gerasimov was seen as the mastermind behind Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and critics have blamed him for Moscow’s military woes.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense said that Gerasimov’s appointment as commander “is an indication of the increasing severity of the situation facing Russia, and a clear understanding that the program is falling short of Russia’s strategic objectives.” ” It was added in a tweet that Russian ultra-nationalists and military writers who oppose Gerasimov may greet the news with a “bad problem.”

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The official definition of the Russian Ministry of Defense is the promotion of military activities and the need for “close interaction between the branches of the military as well as increasing the quality of equipment and the ability to control the army groups” led to leadership changes.

On the battlefield, a Ukrainian official, near Soledar, told the Associated Press that the pattern is that the Russians will first send one or two waves of troops, many from the Russian military and Wagner Group, suffered heavy casualties while probing the Ukrainian defenses. . When the Ukrainian soldiers are sick and tired, the Russians will send a new wave of highly trained soldiers, paratroopers or special forces, said the Ukrainian official, who insisted not named for security reasons.

Ukrainian officials denied Russian claims that Soledar had been defeated but the head of the Wagner Group repeated the accusation of the breach late Wednesday.

“I also want to ensure the complete liberation and cleansing of the Soledar region from the units of the Ukrainian army,” wrote Yevgeny Prigozhin on his Russian social media platform. “Civilians were taken away. The units of Ukrainians who did not want to surrender were destroyed. He said that about 500 people were killed and “the whole city was filled with the bodies of Ukrainian soldiers.”

Ukraine’s military said late Wednesday that Russian troops had suffered “heavy casualties” in the Soledar battle.

The AP was unable to independently verify either side’s claims.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stopped short of capturing the city, telling reporters that Russian troops had made “good progress” in Soledar. “We should not rush and wait for official information,” he added.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy weighed in on Wednesday in his video message of the night: “Now the terrorist government and its advisers are trying to say that parts of our city of Soledar – a city ​​that has been almost completely destroyed by the residents – it is considered a kind of achievement of Russia. He said that the Ukrainian forces in the region are holding off the Russians

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Soledar, known for salt mining and processing, has little internal value but is strategically located 10 kilometers (six miles) north of the city of Bakhmut, which Russian forces want to surround.

Taking Bakhmut would disrupt Ukraine’s supply lines and open the way for the Russians to advance on Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, Ukrainian strongholds in Donetsk province.

Soledar’s defeat “makes keeping Bakhmut even more dangerous for Ukraine,” said Michael Kofman, director of Russia Studies at the nonprofit research group CAN in Arlington, Virginia.

A war of aggression, with heavy casualties, may have cost the Russian victory a defeat.

“I don’t think the result in Bakhmut is worth the price for Russia to achieve,” Kofman said in a tweet.

The Wagner Group, which now claims to contain many of the prisoners held in Russian prisons, including a quarter of all Russian fighters in Ukraine, led the attack on Soledar and Bakhmut.

The victory at Soledar and Bakhmut after months of Russian front problems helped Prigozhin, who criticized Gerasimov, to increase his power in a competitive environment with military leader of Russia.

The Russian military has been able to gain control over Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and another Ukrainian province that the Kremlin introduced a law in September, after the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in the year 2014. As the Russian forces withdrew from Kherson, the battle for Bakhmut heated up.

Putin identified the Donbas region as a focus since the beginning of the conflict, and Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting there since 2014. Russia captured almost all of Luhansk in the summer. Donetsk escaped that fate, and the Russian military subsequently poured men and resources into Bakhmut.

The Institute for the Study of War said Russian forces were fighting “Ukrainian resistance” around Bakhmut.

“The reality of block-by-block control of the ground in Soledar is obscured by the dynamic nature of urban warfare … and the Russian military has been able to make significant gains in Soledar region for months,” Washington thought. tank said.

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A special feature of the fighting near Bakhmut was that some were stationed near the entrances to the unused salt mine roads, which run for some 200 kilometers (120 miles), according to the West Coast.

In other developments:

– Putin said on Wednesday that Russia has successfully resisted Western pressure, particularly sanctions, over its invasion of Ukraine and promised that his country has enough resources to increase its military. while social programs continue. “Nothing came from our enemies,” Putin said in a video call with his prime minister. “We will strengthen our defense capabilities and without a doubt resolve all issues related to supplies to military personnel involved in special military operations,” he said, using the The Kremlin’s statement on the war. There have been reports that Russia is actively producing weapons, equipment and clothing for its troops fighting in Ukraine.

— Polish President Andrzej Duda said his country is willing to supply German-made Reopard tanks to help Ukraine as part of a larger international coalition. Duda spoke after a meeting in Lviv with Zelenskyy, who said that Ukraine needs tanks to win the war. In Britain, another close ally of Ukraine, Prime Minister’s spokesman Rishi Sunak said there was no final decision on whether to send tanks.

— Russian and Ukrainian Human Rights Commissioners agreed to transfer more than 40 military prisoners, the Turkish government’s Anadolu Agency reported. The two warring factions have exchanged prisoners several times, in one of the few areas of cooperation. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said his country has asked to establish a route to transport the wounded to Turkey. “It’s our humanitarian work, our work of the mind,” he said.


Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, Poland, and Yuras Karmanau in Tallinn, Estonia, contributed to this report.

Follow AP’s coverage of the war at


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