On Wednesday, the fate of a struggle for the salt-mining town of Soledar in eastern Ukraine remained in the balance despite claims to the contrary by the Russian mercenary Wagner Group, which said it had gained control of the area where the combat had been concentrated.
Days of ferocious combat have been concentrated around Soledar as Russia has seen it as essential to its push for the surrounding important city of Bakhmut and the greater eastern Donbas region of Ukraine.
The conditions on the ground could not be verified, and no comments have been made by Ukrainian officials.
According to Russian news media, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of Wagner and a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said late on Tuesday that “Wagner units took control of the entire territory of Soledar. A cauldron has been formed in the centre of the city in which urban fighting is going on.”
On Tuesday, Prigozhin said that street fighting was still going on as Ukrainian troops were encircled in the town’s centre. ”Tomorrow, the number of taken prisoners will be announced.”
Soledar had been abducted, according to Denis Pushilin, a Russian surrogate official in eastern Ukraine. “At the current time, according to the information I have, the centre of Soledar is already under the control of Wagner units,” he added.
About 15 kilometres (9 miles) separate Soledar from Bakhmut, and its conquest would be valuable to Russia on a symbolic, military, and economic level.
Later, the Wagner Group reportedly took control of Soledar’s salt mines after a “fierce battle,” according to a report from the Russian state news agency. Meanwhile, Prigozhin published a picture of himself with his mercenaries in what he claimed to be one of the mines.
However, the Institute for the Study of War, a research tank based in Washington, DC, expressed concern regarding the Russian assertions.