Ukraine pulls back from eastern Soledar town after months-long battle against Russians

Following a months-long bloody battle, Ukrainian forces have pulled back from the eastern salt-mining Soledar town, in what can be seen as a triumph for the Russians after a series of setbacks since the invasion last year. Serhii Cherevatyi, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s forces in the east, told the AP news agency that the Ukrainian army has strategically retreated from the town in the Donbas region to “preserve the lives of its personnel”. He added that the Ukrainian soldiers have gone back to their previously prepared defence positions, without giving further details. Soledar, which had a pre-war population of around 10,000 people, is six miles (about 9 km) northeast of Bakhmut, a city in the eastern part of Ukraine known as Donbas. On January 13, Russia claimed that its forces seized control of Soledar, but Ukraine immediately denied it. Though the importance of the town is debated, Moscow believes that taking control of Soledar is key to seizing Bakhmut and the prized Donbas region.War in Ukraine: Russia launches fresh attack on Ukrainian cities, claims victory in SoledarSince the invasion, Russia has been eyeing control of the Donbas region, where the separatists backed by Moscow have been fighting the Ukranian government since 2014. Russia has already taken control of most of Luhansk, while about half of Donetsk remains under Ukraine’s control. “Russia is not reducing combat activity in Donbas, leaving a scorched desert where the Russian military manages to advance,” Donetsk Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said on state television. It is believed that Russians will gain an upper hand after taking control of Soledar as it can successfully cut off supply lines of Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut region. The Institute for the Study of War, a US think tank, said it was “not an operationally significant development”. (With inputs from agencies)   

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