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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Russia claims control of the salt mine town of Soledar.

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Russia says it has seized control of the Ukrainian salt mine town of Soledar after months of fighting, calling it a “crucial” step in the offensive.” The victory will allow Russian forces to cut off Ukrainian supply routes in the nearby larger town of Bakhmut, “the defense ministry said. Ukrainian officials said the battle over Soledar was still ongoing and accused Russia of “information noise.”

The fighting around Soledar has been some of the bloodiest of the war. Regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Thursday that 559 civilians including 15 children remained in the town and could not be moved out. Soledar’s significance for the Russian military is disputed by military analysts because of its relatively small size. But seizing Soledar would likely be hailed as a victory in Moscow after months of failures and setbacks in Russia’s 10-month war. The US-based think tank Institute for the Study of War said hours earlier that it was likely that Russian forces had captured Soledar, but it did not believe they would then be able to go on to encircle Bakhmut.

Undersecretary of Defense Hanna Malyar said the fighting “heated up in Soledar overnight”. Ukrainian fighters “bravely tried to maintain their defenses” during the difficult phase of the war, she added. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a late-night speech that the broader defense of Soledar, Bakhmut, and the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine was an important issue.

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