Ukrainian fighters were fighting to hold their defenses as Russian forces pummeled Soledar through the night, the deputy defense minister said early Friday, after dire warnings of people trapped in the eastern salt mining town. The nearly 600 civilians trapped in Soledar, near the city of Bakhmut, as reported by Ukrainian media, are trying to survive what another official called a “bloodbath.”
The battle for Soledar has intensified this week as Ukrainian officials deny claims of that Russian troops or the Wagner Group’s private military forces have taken control. Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.
1. Key developments
- Russian forces have ramped up their fire in the eastern Donetsk region,Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Friday. “Our fighters are bravely trying to hold the line,” she wrote on Telegram. “This is a difficult phase of the war, but we will win.” In his nightly address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said two units in the town had inflicted “significant losses on the enemy.”
- Fighting is preventing the evacuation of residents from Soledar, said Ukraine’s governor for the Donetsk region. Pavlo Kyrylenko said Thursday in televised remarks that Russian forces were “burning everything on their way” and that 559 civilians remained in the town trying to survive “a bloodbath.”
- Russian advances in Soledar would not “have a strategic impact on the war itself,” according to John Kirby, communications coordinator for the U.S. National Security Council. “It certainly isn’t going to stop the Ukrainians or slow them down in terms of their efforts to regain their territory,” told reporters in a briefing Thursday. Seizing the town would give Russia a symbolic win after the recent months of military setbacks.
- U.S. citizen Taylor Dudley, 35, was released nine months of detention in Russia, according to U.S. officials and others familiar with the matter. He was released Thursday and was traveling to the United States with a team working for former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, according to a statement from his center, which negotiates for the release of hostages and prisoners abroad. U.S. officials confirmed the release. Dudley served briefly in the U.S. Navy in 2007.
2. Battleground updates
- Russia’s chief ground forces commander traveled to Belarus to inspect units of a joint military force stationed there, the Belarusian state news agency said Thursday. Kyiv has warned that Russia intends to use its ally Belarus to open a new front in the war along Ukraine’s northern border.
- Russia is seeking to raise the minimum age for conscription from 18 to 21, Russian media reported, citing a senior Russian lawmaker. Russian President Vladimir Putin supports the idea, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to the Tass news agency.
3. Global impact
- Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is set to arrive at the White House Friday to discuss global security, including Ukraine, The Washington Post reported. “I intend to affirm our common understanding regarding the current situation, including that we are now in a severe security environment, with Russian aggression against Ukraine among other factors, and that the global economy is also facing the possibility of downside risk,” Kishida said.
- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will greet his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian in Moscow on Jan. 17, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. Iran’s nuclear program as well as Syria and Afghanistan will be on the agenda, she said.
4. From our correspondents
Russia’s new commander reflects Putin’s plan to push for victory in Ukraine:With the appointment of Russia’s highest-ranking military officer as direct operational commander of the conflict in Ukraine, Putin has doubled down on his conviction that the war’s objectives can be achieved without new leadership, according to analysts, Francesca Ebel reports.
“Gerasimov, 67, an army general and deputy defense minister, has been chief of the General Staff for more than a decade and is a Kremlin insider who had a key role in planning the war,” she writes.
Source: The Washington Post