An attack against Russian Wagner Group mercenaries in Soledar resulted in 25 deaths, Ukrainian officials claimed on Wednesday.
The strike came after recent Russian statements of victory in the Ukrainian salt-mining town located 9 miles from another heavily contested battle area, Bakhmut. The paramilitary Wagner Group, headed by Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, has led forces in Soledar.
A video originally posted by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on Facebook was reposted by Rob Lee, senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, on Twitter. He said the strikes were conducted by Ukraine’s 45th artillery brigade on Wagner soldiers.
The video shows a long-range view of troops in trenches, caught in the crosshairs and quickly taken out.
“An enemy attack on the positions of our infantrymen was thwarted by aimed artillery fire,” the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine posted on Facebook. “Together we will win!”
After Kremlin-installed authorities in the Donetsk region said Friday in a Telegram statement that “Russian troops liberated Soledar,” Russian officials seemed to have cooled down on proclamations of victory in the war-torn city.
As pointed out Wednesday by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a U.S.-based think tank, Russia’s “information space” was having difficulty portraying tactical Russian gains around Soledar as “operationally significant.”
Aside from tactical pursuits, Russian President Vladimir Putin implied on Friday that the Russian Ministry of Defense, not the Wagner Group, deserved credit for gains made in Soledar.
It wasn’t until after Prigozhin accused the ministry of not acknowledging his forces’military prowess that Russian officials issued a statement praising the “courageous and selfless actions” of Wagner Group fighters.
While Russian sources previously suggested that Soledar’s capture presaged an “imminent encirclement of Bakhmut” or a “Ukrainian retreat” as far back as Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, the ISW previously alluded to Russian objectives involving the cutting of supply routes between Siversk and Bakhmut.
Part of that mission could include the attempted capture of the nearby village of Paraskoviivka to cut a section of the road from Sloviansk to Bakhmut.
Calls of Russian victory in Soledar might be premature, according to British defense officials who as of Sunday said that Ukrainian forces have “almost certainly maintained positions” in the town.
“The informational war is unfortunately happening not only on the battlefield but more in the heads of our people,” a Ukrainian soldier named Kiyanyn said in a TikTok video message dated January 16. “And a lot of work needs to be done to improve this as thousands of people like me are doing our work on the frontline, and doing it very well.”
Newsweek reached out to Lee and the Ukrainian and Russian defense ministries for comment.
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