Russian troops are making another attempt to advance on the small town of Soledar near Bakhmut in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said on Telegram Monday.
“After an unsuccessful [previous] attempt to capture Soledar and retreat, the enemy regrouped, restored losses, deployed additional assault units, changed tactics and launched a powerful assault,” Maliar said. “At the moment, the enemy has engaged a large number of assault groups formed from the best reserves of the Wagner's troops. The enemy is advancing literally on the corpses of their own soldiers, massively using artillery, multiple rocket launchers and mortars, covering even their own fighters with fire.”
“Heavy fighting continues right at this moment,” she added.
Earlier on Monday, Serhii Cherevatyi, a Ukrainian military spokesperson, told Ukrainian TV that Russia had “managed to concentrate more of its units” around Soledar and was deploying both “regular” troops and mercenaries working for the private sector group Wagner there.
The head of the Wagner group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said Sunday that one of the reasons he wanted to take over Bakhmut and Soledar in order to control the system of mines in that area, which he described as “a network of underground cities."
Cherevatyi, spokesperson for Eastern Group of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said they were trying to evacuate civilians from Soledar but not everyone was willing to leave.
“Soledar is actually destroyed,” he said. “There are residents there. Everything is being done to evacuate them. It is difficult to talk about the numbers now. There is a part of people, especially the older generation, who have a great fear of change, of leaving their homes and to move somewhere. We are communicating with them, but not always everyone agrees [to leave].”
On Sunday night, President Volodymr Zelensky said that Soledar was “holding out” but it was “extremely hard.”