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Russia claims full control over Ukrainian salt mine town; Zelensky says battle still on

Russia said that establishing full control over Soledar makes it possible to cut off the supply routes of Ukrainian troops in the southwestern city of Artemovsk (Video grab courtesy: Russian Ministry of Defence)

Terming it a significant development in its nearly 11-month war with Ukraine, the Russian Defence Ministry has announced that its armed forces have taken full control over Soledar, the small mineral-rich Donetsk town in eastern Ukraine. 

The “liberation” of Soledar, it said on Friday, is important for the continuation of successful offensive operations in the Donetsk direction.

“Establishing full control over Soledar makes it possible to cut off the supply routes of Ukrainian troops in the southwestern city of Artemovsk, and then to block and take into the ‘cauldron’ the units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine remaining in it,” said Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov during his media briefing.

Kyiv however denied the Russian claim with its General Staff of the Armed Forces stating late Friday that battle for Soledar continues.

“The tough battle for Donetsk region continues, the battle for Bakhmut and Soledar, for Kreminna, for other towns and villages in the east of our country continues,” said Volodymyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine in his overnight video address to the nation early Saturday.

(Image courtesy: Facebook/GeneralStaff.Ua)

Moscow credited the capture of Soledar to the constant fire destruction by its assault and army aviation, missile troops and artillery of a group of Russian troops.

“They continuously inflicted concentrated strikes on the positions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the city, forbidding the transfer of reserves, the supply of ammunition, as well as attempts by the enemy to withdraw to other lines of defence,” added Konashenkov.

The Russian General stated that fighter aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces in the course of operations to liberate the city destroyed three aircraft and a helicopter of the Ukrainian Air Force, which performed the tasks of providing fire support to Ukrainian troops from the air.

“In addition, combat crews of the air defence systems of the group of Russian troops in the Soledar area shot down nine rockets of the HIMARS, Alder and Uragan multiple launch rocket systems fired at strongholds occupied by Russian troops”.

As reported by IndiaNarrative.com, the mineral-rich city of Soledar, meaning ‘the salt giving’, is just 10 km north of the industrial city of Bakhmut, with the region having one of the biggest salt deposits in the world located in deep underground mines.

In an intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine earlier this week, the United Kingdom’s Defence Ministry said that the capture of Bakhmut likely continues to be Russia’s main immediate operational objective.

It said that Russia’s Soledar axis is highly likely an effort to envelop Bakhmut from the north, and to disrupt Ukrainian lines of communication.

“Part of the fighting has focused on entrances to the 200 km-long disused salt mine tunnels which run underneath the district. Both sides are likely concerned that they could be used for infiltration behind their lines,” the UK Defence Ministry said on Tuesday.

It was just before Christmas that the Ukrainian President toured the “tattered but unconquered” region and presented state awards to “heroes” who he said defended not only “Bakhmut fortress” or Donbas but the whole of Ukraine.

Ever since 1701, when salt miners built a wooden fortress which occupied the centre of the modern city, Bakhmut and Soledar, situated at a distance of about 755 km from the capital Kyiv, became the centre of the salt industry in the southeast of Ukraine.

The salt mine in Soledar, where a speleological sanatorium has been created, also has unique natural healing properties.

Russian Defence Ministry on Friday said that over the past three days alone, more than 700 Ukrainian servicemen and over three hundred units of weapons of the Armed Forces of Ukraine have been destroyed near the city of Soledar.

Also Read: Battle rages for control of 200 km-long salt mine tunnels in eastern Ukraine