The Ukrainian command confirmed for the first time that the Armed Forces of Ukraine had withdrawn from the city of Soledar on Jan. 25 after the Ukrainian military had completed the main tasks of defending the city, as well as depleting the enemy and holding the front line.
The information about the withdrawal of Ukrainian defenders from Soledar was confirmed by the spokesman for the Eastern Group of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Serhiy Cherevatyi, in comments to Suspilne, BBC News Ukraine, and AFP.
Cherevatyi did not specify the date of the withdrawal, adding that the Ukrainian Armed Forces left Soledar "after many months of heavy fighting,in particular in recent weeks."
Here are the main facts about the withdrawal of the Armed Forces of Ukraine from the town of Soledar (Donetsk Oblast), as reported by Cherevatyi:
- The defenders of Soledar fulfilled their main task: they did not allow the enemy to systematically break through the defense on the Donetsk axis and enter the rear, and then move further into the operational space;
- The Armed Forces of Ukraine depleted the Russian forces in this sector as much as possible: according to Cherevatyi, "they knocked out the enemy's manpower as much as possible," and the enemy suffered huge losses in personnel, comparable to the aggressor's losses in the two Chechen wars;
- The front line was leveled: there was no encirclement or capture of Ukrainian troops;
- The Defense Forces have now withdrawn from Soledar and have consolidated their positions on the previously prepared defense lines;
- The decision to withdraw from Soledar was made "to save the lives of the personnel" ("This is war. Every military commander makes decisions based on the maximum benefit for his troops. We can't afford the luxury that our enemy has of just throwing fighters to the slaughter. We are trying to maneuver, fire, and use small-group tactics to maximize the enemy's exhaustion," explained Cherevatyi.)
- The defenders of Soledar achieved a real feat: they defended the town and "held their positions powerfully" despite the enemy's three- to five-fold superiority;
- Russia threw all its forces at Soledar to draw attention to "a small town against the background of the fact that the enemy had previously suffered significant defeats in Kyiv Oblast, and during the Kharkiv, Lyman and Kherson operations."
Russian troops focused on trying to capture Soledar, a small town adjacent to Bakhmut, starting in the first weeks of 2023, although they had been trying to take the settlement since May 2022. According to the Ministry of Defense, in January, the Russians deployed almost all of their main forces in this area, using both Wagner PMC assault units and other types of troops as cannon fodder. As a result of intense fighting with the active use of artillery and aviation, Soledar was almost completely destroyed.
NV is following the aftermath of the Ukrainian Armed Forces' withdrawal from Soledar and will have additional comments on this decision.
2:55 p.m. Ukrainian Armed Forces will not withdraw from Bakhmut as long as they can defend themselves, General Staff has said.
The Armed Forces of Ukraine will not withdraw from Bakhmut as long as they have the ability to defend themselves. The situation remains under control, Andriy Kovalyov, spokesman for the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said on Ukrainian national television.
According to him, the issue of withdrawal from Bakhmut is not yet on the table, despite numerous media reports.
"It's strange when they say that the Armed Forces have to leave somewhere," Kovalyov said.
“The task of all the Defense Forces is to fight for Ukrainian territory. That is why Bakhmut is still standing, because the soldiers are not leaving.”
He noted that the situation in the town is under control, Ukrainian soldiers are repelling the Russians and holding Bakhmut.
The General Staff spokesperson added that Soledar was razed to the ground by the Russian military, and that is why the Ukrainian Armed Forces left the town. "As long as there are basements in Bakhmut and the ability to hold this territory, the soldiers will stay there," he concluded.
2:35 p.m. What does the occupied Soledar look like now?