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A Ukrainian soldier fighting in the eastern town of Soledar told CNN that the situation is “critical” and the death toll is now so high that “no one counts the dead”.
The soldier is from the 46th air mobile brigade, which is leading Ukraine’s fight to hold onto Soledar in the face of a massive assault from Russian troops and Wagner mercenaries.
CNN is not identifying him for security reasons.
“The situation is critical. Difficult. We are holding on to the last,” said the soldier said.
He described a dynamic battlefield where buildings change hands daily and units can’t keep track of the escalating death toll. “No one will tell you how many dead and wounded there are. Because no one knows for sure. Not a single person,” he said. “Not at the headquarters. Not anywhere. Positions are being taken and re-taken constantly. What was our house today, becomes Wagner's the next day.”
“In Soledar, no one counts the dead,” he added.
The soldier said it was unclear as of Tuesday night how much of the town was held by the Russians: “No one can definitely say who moved where and who holds what, because no one knows for sure. There is a huge grey area in the city that everyone claims to control, [but] it’s just any empty hype.”
The Ukrainians have lost many troops in Soledar but the ranks are being replenished as the fight for the mining town continues, he said: “The personnel of our units have been renewed by almost half, more or less. We do not even have time to memorize each other’s call signs [when new personnel arrive].”
The soldier said that he believed Ukraine’s military leaders would eventually abandon the fight for Soledar and questioned why they hadn’t done this yet. “Everyone understands that the city will be abandoned. Everyone understands this,” he said. “I just want to understand what the point [in fighting house to house] is. Why die, if we are going to leave it anyway today or tomorrow?”
The 46th air mobile brigade said on its Telegram channel on Tuesday that the situation in Soledar was “very difficult, but manageable."
In his nightly address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the soldiers of the brigade “for their bravery and steadfastness in defending Soledar.”
The fierce battle for control of the eastern town of Soledar in Ukraine is intensifying. Meanwhile, Ukrainian soldiers are set to begin training soon on the Patriot missile system in the US.
Here are some of the latest developments in Russia's war in Ukraine:
The fight for Soledar: Russian troops are focusing attention on Soledar — a salt mining town in eastern Ukraine. According to spokesperson Serhii Cherevatyi of the Eastern Group of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Russian troops have fired 86 times at the area over the past day. Still, Cherevatyi insisted the situation in the town is “under control” and that in some other places near Bakhmut, “the enemy has even been driven back.”
Resources for Ukraine: The Pentagon confirmed the US will begin training 90 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers on the Patriot missile system as soon as next week at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. The US is providing one Patriot battery, which includes power generating equipment, computers, an engagement control system and up to eight launchers. The battery is operated by roughly 90 soldiers and takes months to train up on.
Meanwhile, Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Tuesday made a surprise trip to the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv and confirmed that Berlin had promised to send more weapons to the country, according to a statement. Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder did not have any details Tuesday about how Germany intended to handle training on the Patriot system it committed to sending Ukraine and whether Berlin would wait for training to complete on the US system before sending its own.
Russian army appointment: Russian Col. Gen. Aleksandr Lapin, who previously was head of Central Military District, has been appointed chief of the General Staff of the Ground Forces of the Russian army, the Russian state news agency TASS reported on Tuesday, referring to unnamed sources close to the military department. Lapin's appointment took place at the end of 2022, another source told TASS.
CNN was unable to independently verify this report.
Human rights concerns: A Russian government consultative body established to protect "human rights and freedoms" has been reviewing doctors' complaints about sending cured soldiers back to the frontlines without proper rehabilitation, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported on Tuesday. Work is already underway to resolve the issue, council member Olga Demicheva told RIA Novosti.
A Russian government consultative body established to protect "human rights and freedoms" has been reviewing doctors' complaints about sending cured soldiers back to the frontlines without proper rehabilitation, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported on Tuesday.
A member of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, established to assist the Russian president "in the exercise of his constitutional responsibilities to guarantee and protect human rights and freedoms," told RIA Novosti that there have been cases, in which soldiers, who had not fully recovered from injuries, have been sent back to the frontlines to fight.
“We learned about a situation in which soldiers who received high-tech medical care with recommendations for rehabilitation and aftercare were immediately sent to the frontlines instead of rehabilitation," council member Olga Demicheva said, according to RIA Novosti.
"As a result, the treatments they received simply go down the drain, and instead of healthy people, we could get people with disabilities," she said.
According to Demicheva, the council has received two appeals from the staff at medical institutions in Donetsk and Moscow.
Work is already underway to resolve the issue, Demicheva told RIA Novosti.
The family of a British man who has gone missing in Ukraine have expressed concern on Tuesday about his health and whereabouts in a statement released by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office.
“We are very worried and concerned about the health and whereabouts of Chris right now,” according to the statement issued on behalf of Chris Parry, one of the men missing in Ukraine.
“He is an extraordinary person who is compassionate and caring and would not be dissuaded from his work in Ukraine liberating elderly and disabled people, which we are very proud of,” the statement said.
“We, his family and partner, all love him very much and would be grateful if our privacy could be respected at this difficult time,” it added.
The UK Foreign Office confirmed to CNN on Monday they were supporting the families of two British men who have gone missing in Ukraine.
The Foreign Office did not provide any further comment about the two nationals or their last known location.
Ukraine’s security service says an official in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) has been indicted after an investigation, alleging that they found he was “publicly justifying Russia’s armed aggression against Ukraine.”
It did not name the accused.
The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said it had searched the home and church premises of the metropolitan of one of the Church’s dioceses in the central Vinnytsia region and found “pro-Kremlin propaganda leaflets and literature”.
“According to the investigation, the suspect disseminated propaganda leaflets among believers, calling for the seizure of power and change of Ukraine’s state borders,” it said. “On one of the websites of the Russian Orthodox Church, the metropolitan posted publications in support of the Russian invaders and their war crimes.”
The suspect will now stand trial on four charges and faces up to eight years in prison, the SBU’s statement said.
More context: The UOC was previously subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church. In May last year, its leaders announced they were breaking ties with Moscow after Patriarch Kirill gave his support to the war.
CNN has previously reported that the SBU had carried out searches of premises belonging to the UOC in several regions as part of an effort to counter suspected “subversive activities of (the) Russian special services.”
The Pentagon confirmed that the US will begin training 90 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers on the Patriot missile system as soon as next week at Fort Sill in Oklahoma.
CNN was first to report that the training would begin on US soil and it will last “several months.”
“Once fielded, the Patriot… will contribute to Ukraine’s air defense capabilities, and provide another capability to the Ukrainian people to defend themselves against Russia’s ongoing aerial assaults,” said Pentagon press secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder at a press briefing.
Ryder also confirmed that the previously announced combined arms training program for Ukrainian battalions in Europe will also begin as early as next week and “will not require a significant or any increase in terms of US trainers” deploying to Europe.
Ryder did not have any details about how Germany intended to handle training on the Patriot system it committed to sending Ukraine and whether Berlin would wait for training to complete on the US system before sending its own.
More background: The US announced it was sending Ukraine the Patriot missile system in late December when the country’s President Volodomyr Zelensky visited Washington, DC, and met with President Joe Biden.
The US is providing one Patriot battery, which includes power generating equipment, computers, an engagement control system and up to eight launchers. The battery is operated by roughly 90 soldiers and takes months to train up on.
Though the Patriot is broadly seen as one of the most advanced and effective air defense systems, experts cautioned that it is “not a game-changer” because of its limited range and the amount of time it will take for Ukrainians to be able to utilize it.
CNN's Haley Britzky contributed reporting to this post.
Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock made a surprise trip to the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on Tuesday and confirmed that Berlin had promised to send more weapons to the country, according to a statement on the ministry’s website.
Ukrainians "should know that they can rely on our solidarity and support,” she said.
This comes after Germany’s ambassador to the US had said Thursday that Berlin would provide Ukraine with Marder infantry fighting vehicles and an additional Patriot air defense battery.
“I have no doubts further German military aid will come,” tweeted Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba who accompanied Baerbock to Kharkiv.
Baerbock also spoke about Ukraine’s long-term goal of joining the European Union.
The Ukrainians, “see their future in Europe, in the EU,” she said. “That is why I would also like to talk about the progress made in the accession process. As the Federal Government, we want to make very concrete offers to Ukraine in order to make progress in strengthening the rule of law, independent institutions and the fight against corruption, as well as in aligning with EU standards."
Russian Col. Gen. Aleksandr Lapin, who previously was head of Central Military District, has been appointed chief of the General Staff of the Ground Forces of the Russian army, the Russian state news agency TASS reported on Tuesday, referring to unnamed sources close to the military department.
Lapin's appointment took place at the end of 2022, another source told TASS.
CNN was unable to independently verify this report. There were no official state announcements about the appointment, and Kremlin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov also declined to confirm on Tuesday.
Military analyst Ian Matveev characterized Lapin's promotion as “more of a bureaucratic position, and not a military one."
Lapin, despite having received the Hero of Russia medal, was heavily criticized by the head of the Chechen Republic and Putin's trusted ally, Ramzan Kadyrov, and Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose Wagner group of private military contractors are involved in fighting in the east of Ukraine. Lapin was branded "talentless" by both, following the retreat of Russian forces from the strategic eastern city of Lyman, in the Donetsk region.