Kyiv, Ukraine (AFP) – Ukrainian forces carried out an orderly withdrawal from a town in the eastern region of Donbass, an official said Wednesday, in what amounts to a rare but modest battlefield victory for Russia. After a series of setbacks in its invasion that began nearly 11 months ago.
Serhiy Chervaty, a spokesman for Ukrainian forces in the east, told the Associated Press that the Ukrainian military withdrew from the salt-mining town of Soledar “to save people’s lives.”
He said that the soldiers withdrew to pre-prepared defensive positions. Russia claimed about two weeks ago that its forces had captured Solidar, but Ukraine denied this.
The battle for the city, not far from the city of Pakhmut in Donetsk province, has been portrayed by Moscow as key to capturing all of Ukraine’s Donbass region, where Russian-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian forces for nearly nine years and seized some territory before full-scale Russia. Invade.
Russian President Vladimir Putin cited the safety of Russians living in Donetsk and the neighboring Luhansk province, which together make up Donbass, as a justification for the invasion. Putin illegally annexed Ukrainian provinces and two other provinces in late September.
The withdrawal of Ukrainian forces from Solidar took Russian forces a step closer to Bakhmut, but military analysts say the town’s capture is more symbolic than strategic. Fighting in eastern Ukraine Mostly standing at a standstill for months.
The Ukrainian military said that its fierce defense of Solidar and Bakhmut helped restrain the Russian forces.
Many of the Russian forces around Solidar belong to the Wagner Group, a private Russian military company, and the fighting is said to have been bloody.
Since its invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has prioritized taking full control of Donbass, where it has backed a separatist insurgency since 2014. Russia has controlled most of Luhansk, but about half of Donetsk remains under Ukrainian control.
Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kirilenko said on state television: “Russia does not reduce its combat activity in Donbass, leaving the scorched desert where the Russian army succeeds in advancing.”
Control of Solidar would likely allow Russian forces to cut off the supply lines of Ukrainian forces at Bakhmut, although the strength of Ukraine’s new defensive positions was unknown.
The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank, said earlier this month that the fall of Solidar would not represent “an operationally significant development and is unlikely to herald an imminent Russian encirclement of Bakhmut.”
The institute said Russian media operations had “overestimated the importance of Solidar”, a small settlement. She also argued that the long and hard battle contributed to the exhaustion of the Russian forces.
Perhaps most worrying for Moscow is that Western military aid to Ukraine is now being ramped up with tank deliveries.
Elsewhere, Russian forces continued to bomb Ukrainian regionsEspecially in the south and east.
Provincial governor Pavlo Kirilenko said Russian strikes wounded 10 civilians in the eastern province of Donetsk on Tuesday.
He added that five were wounded when Russian shells hit residential complexes.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said that Russian forces conducted four missile strikes, 26 air strikes and more than 100 missile systems attacks between Tuesday morning and Wednesday morning.
In addition to Donetsk, Russian attacks hit settlements in the country’s northeast, Kharkiv and Sumy, north of Chernihiv, far eastern Luhansk, southeast Zaporizhia, and the southern Kherson provinces.
Two people were killed and three others injured in a Russian bombing of a grocery store in the city of Preslav, Kherson region, on Wednesday, according to an online statement from the regional government.
The statement said that the Russian bombing included 12 attacks on Tuesday on the capital of the region, also called Kherson, and damaged a maternity hospital, a school, a clinic, port buildings and residential buildings.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskywho was a professional comedian and actor before his election in 2019 and became an internationally recognized wartime leaderHe turned 45 on Wednesday in the 11 months since Russia invaded his country.
His wife, First Lady Olena Zelenska, said that while he’s the same person she met at 17, “something has changed: You smile a lot less now.”
“I wish you had more reasons to smile. And you know what it takes. We all do,” she tweeted.
Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine