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Russia Shakes Up Its Military Following The Battle In Ukraine Town

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Russia Shakes Up Its Military Following The Battle In Ukraine Town

(CTN NEWS) – KYIV, Ukraine –  One of the bloodiest battles of the Russian invasion took place on Wednesday, with the fate of a destroyed salt mining town in eastern Ukraine hanging in the balance.

Ukraine’s steadfast resistance and other difficulties forced Moscow to reshuffle its military command.

In a relentless assault, Russian forces bombarded Soledar with planes, mortars, and rockets.

Even though it is unlikely that Soledar’s collapse will mark a turning point in the conflict, it would nonetheless be a victory for a Kremlin that has been lacking in positive combat news lately.

Additionally, it would give Russian troops a starting point to take over other Ukrainian-held regions of the Donetsk province, like the nearby key city of Bakhmut.

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Ukrainian servicemen fire a 120 mm mortar towards Russian positions at the frontline near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Moscow’s stated geographical aims in invading Ukraine were Donetsk and the adjoining Luhansk province, which together make up the Donbas region bordering Russia, but the conflict has mostly come to a standstill.

The removal of the commander of Russian forces in Ukraine after just three months on the job was announced by Russia’s Defense Ministry, seemingly acknowledging defeats on the battlefield.

Gen. Valery Gerasimov, head of the military’s General Staff, was chosen to succeed Gen. Sergei Surovikin, who was downgraded to deputy. He is considered to be the senior military leader in Russia.

Surovikin was credited for improving coordination, increasing control, and launching a campaign to shut down Ukraine’s public utilities as a pressure tactic during his brief tenure as the commander of the troops in Ukraine.

The sole regional capital that Russian forces had taken just a few weeks after the Kremlin had forcibly annexed the territory was Kherson, but he too announced a humiliating departure from it in November.

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A Ukrainian serviceman smokes a cigarette at his position at the frontline near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, let on through his promotion that he wasn’t entirely happy with his work.

Meanwhile, Gerasimov was seen as the principal planner of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and detractors have charged him with responsibility for Moscow’s military failures.

According to the British Defense Ministry, the appointment of Gerasimov is “a clear recognition that the campaign is falling short of Russia’s strategic goals, and evidence of the rising seriousness of the position Russia is confronting.”

It noted in a tweet that the announcement is likely to be met with “great anger” by Russian ultra-nationalists and military bloggers who oppose Gerasimov.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry’s official justification, the leadership changes were brought on by the necessity for “closer cooperation between military branches as well as boosting the quality of supplies and the efficiency of commanding units of forces.”

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Ukrainian servicemen fire a 120mm mortar towards Russian positions at the frontline near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

According to a Ukrainian officer on the battlefield close to Soledar who spoke to The Associated Press.

The Russians typically send one or two waves of soldiers, many of them from the private Russian military contractor Wagner Group, who suffer significant casualties as they probe the Ukrainian defenses.

The Russians send a new wave of well-trained soldiers, paratroopers, or special forces when Ukrainian troops are fatigued and suffering casualties, according to the Ukrainian officer who insisted on maintaining his anonymity for security reasons.

Officials from Ukraine refuted Russian allegations that Soledar had collapsed, but the owner of the Wagner Group reiterated the claim of a breakthrough late on Wednesday.

Yevgeny Prigozhin said on his Russian social media account, “Once more I want to confirm the entire liberation and cleansing of the region of Soledar from forces of the Ukrainian army.”

“Citizens were distant. The Ukrainian units that refused to submit were destroyed. He asserted that 500 people had died and that “the corpses of Ukrainian soldiers are all over the city.”

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Ukrainian servicemen gather for a group photo at their position on the frontline near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

The military of Ukraine reported late on Wednesday that the fighting in Soledar had cost Russian soldiers “major losses.”

The AP could not independently verify the claims made by both sides.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for the Kremlin, told reporters that Russian forces had achieved “good dynamics in advancing” in Soledar but refrained from officially announcing the control of the municipality. Let’s not rush, he said, and wait for official comments.

During his nightly video address on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy commented on the situation:

“Now the terrorist state and its propagandists are trying to pretend that some part of our city of Soledar – a city almost completely destroyed by the occupiers – is allegedly some kind of Russia’s achievement.”

He claimed that local Ukrainian forces are resisting Russian advances.

Despite having little inherent value, Soledar, known for its salt mining and processing, is strategically located 10 kilometres (six miles) north of Bakhmut, which Russian forces are attempting to encircle.

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A Ukrainian serviceman smokes a cigarette at his position on the frontline near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Taking Bakhmut would cut off Ukraine’s supply lines and provide the Russians a path to march on Ukrainian strongholds Kramatorsk and Sloviansk in the Donetsk province.

According to Michael Kofman, the director of Russia Studies at the CAN nonprofit research organisation in Arlington, Virginia, Soledar’s fall would make “keeping Bakhmut considerably more problematic for Ukraine.”

A Russian win might be just as terrible as a defeat in the war of attrition, which has high casualties.

In a tweet, Kofman stated, “I don’t think the conclusion at Bakhmut is that big compared to what it costs Russia to obtain it.

The offensive on Soledar and Bakhmut was commanded by the Wagner Group, which apparently now consists of a sizable number of prisoners recruited in Russian jails and makes up to 25% of all Russian troops in Ukraine.

After months of difficulty on the Russian frontlines, success in Soledar and Bakhmut would give Prigozhin, who has criticised Gerasimov, more influence in what has come to resemble a rivalry with Russia’s military leadership.

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After annexing the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, Russian forces struggled to regain control of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and a further Ukrainian region in September.

When Russian troops left Kherson, the conflict grew more intense near Bakhmut.

Putin designated the Donbas region as a focal point for the conflict from the beginning, and since 2014, separatists backed by Moscow have fought there.

Russia took the majority of Luhansk throughout the summer. Donetsk was spared the same tragedy, and the Russian military then surrounded Bakhmut with personnel and supplies.

According to the Institute for the Study of War, “concerted Ukrainian opposition” was encountered by Russian soldiers at Bakhmut.

The dynamic nature of urban battle obscures the reality of block-by-block control of the terrain in Soledar, according to the Washington-based think tank.

“Russian forces have mainly been unable to make substantial tactical gains in the Soledar area for months,” it said.

According to Western intelligence reports, one unusual aspect of the combat in Bakhmut is that some of it has occurred near the entrances to abandoned salt mine tunnels, which span about 200 kilometers (120 miles).

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Additional Developments

Putin asserted on Wednesday that Russia had successfully defied pressure from the West, particularly sanctions, over its invasion of Ukraine, and he promised that his nation had enough money to bolster its military while maintaining social programs.

In a video call with his Cabinet, Putin stated that “none of what our enemies predicted has happened.” He used the Kremlin’s euphemism for the war:

“We will boost our defensive capability and resolve all concerns linked to supplies to military forces engaging in the special military operation.”

There have been rumors that Russia is having trouble providing its forces fighting in Ukraine with enough clothing, equipment, and weaponry.

Polish President Andrzej Duda stated that as part of a bigger international alliance, his nation is willing to send Leopard tanks built in Germany to aid Ukraine.

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Ukrainian soldiers watch as smoke billows during fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces in Soledar, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Libkos)

After meeting Zelenskyy in Lviv, who said that Ukraine needs tanks to win the conflict, Duda made his remarks.

The spokesman for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in Britain, another steadfast ally of Ukraine, stated that no decision regarding the deployment of tanks has been taken.

According to the state-run Anadolu Agency in Turkey, the human rights commissioners from Russia and Ukraine decided to swap more than 40 military inmates.

Multiple prisoner exchanges between the opposing groups occurred in one of the few instances of collaboration.

“The establishment of a corridor to transport the injured to Turkey has been proposed, according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoan. This is our moral and humanitarian obligation,” he declared.


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Alishba Waris is an independent journalist working for CTN News. She brings a wealth of experience and a keen eye for detail to her reporting. With a knack for uncovering the truth, Waris isn't afraid to ask tough questions and hold those in power accountable. Her writing is clear, concise, and cuts through the noise, delivering the facts readers need to stay informed. Waris's dedication to ethical journalism shines through in her hard-hitting yet fair coverage of important issues.

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