‘Bloodbath’: Russia presses attack in Ukraine’s Solidar | News of the war between Russia and Ukraine

Russia says its forces are getting closer to capturing Solidar, a salt-mining town in eastern Ukraine, which would mark an elusive victory for the Kremlin but come at the cost of heavy Russian casualties and widespread destruction of the region they claim.

Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kirilenko said in televised remarks that more than 100 Russian soldiers were killed in the Battle of Solidar in the past 24 hours.

“The Russians literally walked over the corpses of their soldiers and burned everything in their path,” Kirilenko said, while reporting that Russian forces had bombed dozens of towns and villages in the region in the past day.

Using mortars and missiles to pound Solidar in a relentless offensive, Russian forces are struggling for a breakthrough after military setbacks that turned what the Kremlin hoped would be a quick victory into a grinding war of attrition that has dragged on for nearly 11 months without end. insight.

“Civilians are trying to survive in this bloodbath while the Russians press their attacks,” Kirilenko said.

The fall of Solidar will be a reward for the Kremlin, hungry for good battlefield news in recent months, after losing the important city of Kherson in December.

It would also provide Russian forces with a springboard for invading other areas of the eastern province of Donetsk that remain under Ukrainian control, notably the nearby strategic city of Bakhmut.

The road to Bakhmut

Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, from nearby Bakhmut, said there was “heavy bombing all over this area”.

Earlier, Ukrainian soldiers told Al Jazeera that Russian forces were in the center of Solidar and controlling the salt mine.

“They described Russian tanks in the center of Solidar as well, and said there were concerns among Ukrainian forces about possible escape routes for Ukrainian forces inside Solidar,” Stratford said.

He said the forces were trying to “protect a western road out of town.”

A Ukrainian officer near Solidar told the Associated Press that the Russians’ tactic in the attack on Solidar was to send in one or two waves of soldiers, many from Russia’s private military contractor group Wagner Group who took heavy losses while probing the Ukrainian defences.

The Ukrainian officer, who insisted on anonymity for security reasons, said that when Ukrainian forces suffer loss of life, the Russians send another wave of highly trained soldiers, paratroopers or special forces to gain a new foothold on the battlefield.

Satellite image of smoke coming from Solidar
Satellite view showing a burning building in Solidar, Ukraine [Satellite image 2023 Maxar Technologies/Handout via Reuters]

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov praised the “selfless and courageous action” of the Russian forces, which he said helped them push forward in Solidar.

“A tremendous job has been done at Solidar,” he said.

But Peskov did not confirm the claim of Wagner Group owner Yevgeny Prigozhin, who bragged about the takeover of Solidar on Wednesday.

“There is still a lot to do and it is too early to stop and wring our hands, the main work is still ahead,” he said on a conference call with reporters.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, Hanna Malyar, said in a press briefing Thursday, “The enemy continues its attacks, but it suffers heavy losses and has not succeeded.”

The claims made by either side could not be verified.

Military shake

The Russian Defense Ministry made no mention of Solidar in its daily briefing on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the ministry announced that the country’s top military officer – Chief of the Army’s General Staff General Valery Gerasimov – had been placed in charge of the military operation in Ukraine.

He replaced General Sergei Surovikin, who had been demoted to deputy just three months after his inauguration to the top post.

Ukrainian officials also said they had taken note of the personnel changes at the top levels of Russia’s military command, describing it as a sign that Moscow was not achieving what it had hoped.

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“Changes in personnel will not happen with such frequency if they are working well,” said a senior Ukrainian army officer, Brigadier General Oleksiy Khromov.

Fighting continued elsewhere in Ukraine.

The deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, reported Thursday that two civilians were killed and eight others wounded in Russian attacks on Wednesday.

Citing data from local officials, Tymoshenko said a civilian was killed and five wounded in the southern province of Kherson, where shells hit a maternity hospital, private homes and apartment buildings, while one person was killed in Donetsk.

Two people were injured in the southeastern province of Zaporizhia, and another civilian was injured in the southeastern province of Dnipropetrovsk.

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