In an interview with French newspaper Le Monde on Jan. 13, Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Andriy Yermak described ongoing fighting at Bakhmut and Soledar, Donetsk Oblast, as “very difficult,” comparing it to the WWI Battle of Verdun.
“This is the Verdun of the 21st century; the fighting is ongoing for several months now, but our soldiers are holding the line,” said Yermak.
“The Russians are releasing convicts, who are killed as soon as they get to the front line. Their bodies are left to rot, nobody attempts to recover them. The Russian side suffers much heavier personnel losses that we do. We place a greater value on the lives of our troops. Nevertheless, we are facing a human tide that keeps attacking, attacking, attacking.”
The official added that Soledar remains contested, and neither side can claim control of the town.
“The situation is difficult, but we have the sole goal of liberating our territories, restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity,” he concluded.
Russian military command appears to have become obsessed with seizing Soledar, in the first weeks of 2023.
Earlier, Ukraine’s Operational Command East spokesman Serhiy Cherevyi reported that Russia had deployed the bulk of its forces, including Wagner's mercenaries, near Soledar in Donetsk Oblast.
By Jan. 13, Russian media were already claiming victory in the battle for Soledar, while Ukraine’s General Staff maintains that fighting for the town continues. Conquering Soledar would enable Moscow’s forces to put increased pressure on nearby Bakhmut.