On Wednesday, Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff, was named by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu as the overall commander of what Moscow refers to as its “special military operation” in Ukraine, which is currently in its eleventh month.
General Sergei Surovikin, who had been selected in October to head the invasion and direct intense attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, was inadvertently degraded by the shift.
In the meantime, Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of Wagner and a close supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said that his forces had completely taken Soledar after fierce combat and killed over 500 Ukrainian soldiers.
In a statement, Prigozhin stated, “I want to confirm the entire liberation and cleansing of the region of Soledar.”
The remains of Ukrainian servicemen are all around the city, he claimed.
On Wednesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters he was unable to confirm claims that Soledar was in Russian hands.
559 residents, including 15 children, are still in Soledar, according to Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko, who told Ukrainian state television that it was impossible to evacuate them because of the ongoing fighting. The community had about 10,500 residents before the conflict.
The situation in Soledar could not be independently verified by TradingTwist
Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the president of Ukraine, poked fun of earlier Wagner allegations that he had taken over a portion of Soledar but did not immediately respond to the most recent claims.
In a video message, Zelenskiy said that “the terrorist state and its propagandists are trying to imply that part of our town of Soledar… is some type of a Russian ownership.” “But the fighting goes on.”
Russian soldiers were allegedly suffering significant losses as they attempted to seize Soledar and cut off Ukrainian supply routes, according to a statement on Facebook from the Ukrainian military general staff.
The Ukrainian military command noted tanks and artillery in the Soledar region in its collection of reports from the frontlines on Thursday morning, but it provided no further information.
After a string of withdrawals before Ukrainian counteroffensives in the east and south, Russia has struggled to firmly establish control over the town, which would be the country’s biggest victory since August.
Oleh Zhdanov, a military analyst from Ukraine, stated that the Soledar situation was “approaching that of critical.”
“The Ukrainian military is maintaining its positions. Our authority spans around half of the town. There is fierce fighting close to the town center.” he said on YouTube.
Zhdanov, however, stated on Ukrainian media that the capture of Soledar or the neighboring city of Bakhmut by Russian forces would be more of a political triumph than a military one.
Here, politics predominates over warfare, according to Zhdanov.
If they conquer one of these places, the Russians “will try to compare the incident to taking Berlin and they will utilize it for propaganda purposes as much for the outside market as for local consumption,” he warned.
“They will have the chance to cheer up the conscripts and the populace at the large inside of Russia. To bring them all together”
Russia is enlisting former military personnel and law enforcement officials to join paramilitary forces in Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014. This was revealed by Ukraine’s military leadership on Thursday.
‘FALL GUY’ IN THE RUSSIAN MILITARY
According to a statement from the Russian Defense Ministry, the most recent command reorganization was done to enhance communication between military branches and the efficiency of the command structure.
According to a well-known military blogger who goes by the username Rybar and writes on the Telegram messaging service, Surovikin is being used as the scapegoat for recent Russian military missteps. Among them was a New Year’s Day raid by the Ukrainians on a Russian barracks, which resulted in the deaths of at least 89 Russian soldiers.
After Ukrainian offensives shifted the tide of the conflict and highlighted the lack of morale, equipment, and training among Russian forces, Surovikin was given the order to lead the campaign.
A picture on the militia’s Telegram account appeared to show Prigozhin and his troops inside a mine. Earlier, the Russian state news agency RIA reported that Wagner had taken control of Soledar’s salt mines.
Separately, Wagner claimed that one of the two British volunteer assistance workers who were reported missing in eastern Ukraine had been found dead. The deceased man’s name was not mentioned. The names of the two missing workers, Andrew Bagshaw and Christopher Parry, were on what seemed to be their passports.
On February 24, Russia launched tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine, claiming that Kyiv’s close links to the West and desire to join NATO posed a threat to the country’s security. Moscow is accused by Kyiv and its supporters of starting an unjustified conflict to annex land in a neighboring country that it once ruled within the former Soviet Union.