Day 320: Soledar turns into hottest spot on frontline

Fierce fighting for control of Soledar

In the past few days, Soledar, not Bakhmut has been the hottest spot on the frontline. The Russian forces have repeatedly tried to storm the city since December 27. 

U.S. and European intelligence analysts have previously said that Russia has almost exhausted its offensive potential around Bakhmut. Yet, the Russians intensified their efforts to seize control of the nearby city of Soledar, turning it into another hot point on the frontline. 

Fierce fighting rages in Soledar, spokesperson for Ukraine’s Eastern Military Command Serhiy Cherevatyi said on January 7. The Russian forces do not have control of the city. They are taking huge losses, he said. 

The Russians are trying to cut Soledar off from Bakhmut, and cut the road Soledar-Slovyansk, advisor to the Office of the President of Ukraine Oleksiy Arestovych said. 

In the past day, on the Bakhmut axis, the Russian forces made 281 attacks. There were 43 engagements. The Ukrainian troops maintain control of the situation, Cherevatyi said.

With some residents remaining in the city, Soledar is almost destroyed, the spokesperson for the Eastern Military Command stated. Russia threw the most professional Wagner units into battle on this axis, he added.

“They have a background in Russia’s security service (FSB), police, and special forces of the defense intelligence. They have previously used former prisoners to stage the assaults. In Soledar, they threw the most professional units to break through the Ukrainian defense,” Cherevatyi explained. 

Why Soledar is key part of Bakhmut frontline

Soledar is located 13 km to the north-east of Bakhmut. Russia is turning it into ruins as it tries to seize control of the eastern city. Before the invasion, there were about 11,000 residents, a number four times less than in Bakhmut. Since the all-out invasion, Soledar has been under constant Russian attacks. A majority of its residents left. In April 2022, the city’s main plant and one of Europe’s largest salt producers Artemsil ceased operations. 

The Russian forces closed in on Soledar in summer 2022. At the end of July, the Institute for the Study of War said that the Russian military was fighting near the city itself. The analysts expected the Russians to likely leverage that position to move southwest along the T1302 highway and attempt to assault Bakhmut from the Berestove-Soledar line.

Soledar has long been one of the hottest points across the axis, Serhiy Cherevatyi said, commenting on Soledar’s position as a focus of intense efforts by the Russians.  

Why Russia needs Soledar

“That is a very important point — the Russians want to seize control of Soledar to encircle Bakhmut as they cannot directly assault it,” analyst at the Conflict Intelligence Team Kirill Mikhailov said in an interview with Radio NV. “There’s less than 20 kilometers between Bakhmut and Soledar. That’s a single part of a larger frontline,” Ukrainian service member and former advisor to the Interior Minister Ivan Varchenko told NV.  

The Russian forces have been trying to seize control of Bakhmut and Soledar since July 2022. Their attempts have failed.

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