Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy again rejected Russia’s claims that it has encircled and captured the salt-mining town of Soledar in Donetsk, saying fighting over control of the town continues.
“The fighting continues. The Donetsk direction is holding out. And we do everything, without stopping for a single day, to strengthen Ukrainian defense,” he said in his nightly address.
There were confusing reports Wednesday as to whether Russian and Wagner Group (a private Russian military company) forces had taken control of Soledar, after the head of the Wagner Group Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed Tuesday that his force had captured the town.
The Kremlin said Wednesday, however, that reporters should await a statement from the Ministry of Defense on the status of Soledar. Later, the ministry said its own elite airborne units had surrounded Soledar from the north and south and that “assault squads” were fighting in the town center.
The update from the Russian Ministry of Defense was seen by analysts as a bid by the Russian military — which Prigozhin has criticized — to assert its authority over, and to undermine, the Wagner Group leader.
In addition, President Vladimir Putin’s military reshuffle on Wednesday, in which he put loyalist Gen. Valery Gerasimov in charge of troops fighting in Ukraine and replaced the Prigozhin-backed Gen. Sergei Surovikin, has also been seen as part of this power struggle between the Russian military and Prigozhin and his Wagner Group.