White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that according to US intelligence, Russian invasion forces have not completely captured Soledar or succeeded in attacking Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast, the Ukrinform news agency reported on Jan. 19.
“I will tell you as of this morning, we do not assess that they have actually unilaterally taken both cities,” Kirby said during a telephone briefing on Jan. 17, an Ukrinform correspondent reported.
Kirby said that “fierce fighting” was taking place near both cities. According to Kirby, Russian troops are “actually throwing bodies at Ukrainian positions.” The main combat operations are conducted by the fighters of Wagner PMC, a Russian mercenary company.
“(Wagner owner Yevgeny) Prigozhin wants to be considered more relevant and indispensable on the battlefield” than the Russian Federation’s regular army, Kirby said.
Kirby also confirmed that because of this, tensions remain between the Russian Ministry of Defense and Prigozhin’s Wagner group.
Bakhmut remains one of the hottest spots on the front. Russian invasion forces are continuing their attempts to capture it, but Ukrainian forces are fighting back. The assault of the city has been going on for more than six months.
In the first weeks of 2023, Russia focused its maximum efforts on trying to capture Soledar, a small town about 11 kilometers to the north-east of Bakhmut.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense says invaders have thrown almost all of their main forces in to the battle in Donetsk Oblast. A spokesman for the Eastern Group of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Serhiy Cherevaty, reported that Russia uses combat units of the Wagner troops there, as well as units of other types of Russian troops.
Ukraine’s military announced on Jan. 17 that Ukrainian troops are in Soledar and are repelling the Russian invaders. They are performing two main tasks: preventing the invaders from systematically breaking through Ukrainian defenses, and trying to bleed the enemy as much as possible.
A camera crew from the U.S. television news channel CNN claimed on Jan. 13 to have witnessed the organized retreat of Ukrainian forces from Soledar. They said Ukrainian forces were moving troops in what they believed was an organized retreat from Soledar.
However, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense says that fighting for the city continues.