The town of Soledar in Donetsk Oblast has become one of the hottest spots of the front, spokesperson for the Eastern Grouping of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Serhiy Cherevatyi, said on national television on Jan. 9. Soledar is located just 20 km from the frontline town of Bakhmut, which has also been under heavy assault by Russian forces.
Cherevatyi noted that 281 attacks on Ukrainian positions and infrastructure were registered on the Bakhmut axis over the past day, resulting in 43 combat engagements. Russian forces are estimated to have lost 107 troops killed during the fighting, with another 123 being wounded.
According to the spokesperson, the enemy has concentrated its most capable units in the area, such as members of the Wagner mercenary company – specifically those who were recruited as special forces for missions in Syria, Libya, and other conflict zones.
"They have significant military or special training in such units as the FSB, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the GRU special forces of the Russian Ministry of Defense,” he said.
“Because if earlier they used mostly ex-prisoners for these kinds of raids and mass attacks, it was in Soledar that they gathered their most professional parts, which they are using to break through our defense.”
Cherevatyi added that over the past months, Russian troops have been trying to find a weak spot and break through Ukrainian defenses wherever they can: "Now they’ve just managed to concentrate more of their units there [near Soledar] and put more systematic pressure on our defense, which requires us to make appropriate decisions, crisis military management."
He added that Soledar is virtually destroyed, but some residents still remain.
"...Regional administration, all social services urged people to leave the combat zone as much as possible, organized convoys to do it,” Cherevatyi noted.
“However, there are some people, especially the older generation, who have a great fear of change, of leaving their homes, moving to another unfamiliar area. We are working with them, but not always everyone agrees.”
On Jan. 8, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said that the situation is "very difficult" in Soledar, but in some areas of the eastern front Ukrainian forces are gradually advancing.
The day before, the commander of the Ground Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, General Oleksandr Syrskyi, visited Soledar and discussed the situation in these sectors of the front with the commanders of Ukrainian units in the area.
Touching on Syrskyi's visit to Soledar, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Jan. 8 that Ukraine’s military command had decided to strengthen that section of the front by redeploying additional forces to hold their positions and intensify fire on the invading troops.