Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has promised to provide “everything necessary” to soldiers resisting Russian assaults in Soledar and Bakhmout, two towns in the east of the country that Russia is trying to conquer at all costs to change the course of the war .
“I want to emphasize that the units defending these cities will be supplied with ammunition and all the necessary in a rapid and uninterrupted manner,” Mr. Zelensky launched Thursday on Facebook after a meeting with his staff.
The UN Security Council is also due to meet at 8:00 p.m. GMT on Friday to discuss the situation in Ukraine.
The situation in Soledar has been “difficult” for the Ukrainian army for a few days and “the fiercest and most violent fighting continues today”, Deputy Defense Minister Ganna Maliar had indicated earlier.
Formerly known for its salt mines, Soledar is indeed located 15 km northeast of the city of Bakhmout that Russian forces have been trying to take for months.
For the military analyst Anatoly Khramchikhine, the capture of Soledar, a small town of around 10,000 inhabitants before the war, now completely destroyed, would allow Moscow to finally brandish a military victory, after a series of humiliating setbacks.
“Any win is important, especially because there hasn’t been a win for a while,” he said.
Andreï Baïevskiï, pro-Russian separatist MP for the Donetsk region, underlines for his part that the capture of Soledar would make it possible to “cut the Ukrainian supply lines” which make it possible to defend Bakhmout.
Soledar “opens (also) possibilities of artillery fire in the direction of Sloviansk, Kramatorsk and Kostiantynivka” further west, he still observed on Russian television.
People Are Scared
On Wednesday, the leader of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, Yevgeny Prigojine, had claimed responsibility for taking Soledar, before being quickly contradicted not only by kyiv, but also by the Russian Ministry of Defense with which he maintains relations of rivalry.
On Thursday, however, the Kremlin hailed “the heroic actions” of Wagner’s men on the front line.
“There is still a lot of work to be done,” said Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
On a map of eastern Ukraine released Thursday by the Russian Defense Ministry, Soledar did not appear under Moscow’s military control.
“We are holding firm,” insisted Deputy Minister Ganna Maliar, praising “the resilience and heroism” of the Ukrainian forces.
Without presenting figures, she indicated on Thursday that the Russian troops fighting at Soledar “suffered heavy losses (…) while trying without success to break through our defence”.
kyiv for its part did not quantify its killed and wounded in the area, but Mykhaïlo Podoliak, adviser to the Ukrainian presidency, had recognized Wednesday “significant losses”, in an interview with AFP.
A spokesman for the Ukrainian army, Sergei Tcherevaty, claimed on television that the Russians were “constantly attacking” in Soledar, reporting 91 artillery fire on the city in the past 24 hours.
In Bakhmout, under the bombs, doctor Elena Moltchanova, 40, continues as best she can to provide care to the thousands of civilians, often elderly, who have remained in the city.
“There are not enough insulin syringes and needles. Stocks of heart medication are running out very quickly,” she told AFP.
But impossible for her to imagine leaving the city “as long as there are people here”.
Oleksiy Stepanov came for the death certificate of his 83-year-old neighbor, who died at home. Its windows had been blown out by the bombardments. “People are scared,” he says.
In Melitopol, the main occupied city in Ukraine’s Zaporizhia region, “the number of foreign +tourists – Russians, Buryats, Ossetians, Kadyrovtsy – exceeded the number of local residents who were forced to remain under occupation”, wrote early Friday on Telegram the mayor of the city, Ivan Fedorov.
“The ‘foreigners’ try so hard to pretend they belong here that they even use Ukrainian symbols”, they “occupy the houses that the local population”, “disguise themselves as civilians” and “the military are transported in school buses on which is written the word + children +”, he describes.
Russian Objectives Unchanged
The day before, Moscow had made a major change in its military hierarchy.
General Valéri Guerasimov, who is the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, has been appointed to head the troops deployed in Ukraine, replacing General Sergei Surovikin, who will have directed operations for barely three months , marked by the retirement of Kherson (south), and who becomes his assistant.
This reorganization was justified by the Russian Defense by “an enlargement of the scope of the missions to be accomplished”.
“Vladimir Putin did not talk about new goals,” his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday.
But the experts see in this decision the sign of an acceleration of the Russian operation, faced with an inability to win. An offensive has been mentioned for several months and the hypothesis of a new mobilization is not excluded, after a first wave in September of some 300,000 men.
For Mark Galeotti, of the British think-tank Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), this decision is “confirmation, if it were needed, that serious offensives are to come”.
Russia has also released “at a border post between Poland and Russia” after “discreet” negotiations on Thursday a former US Navy sailor whom it had detained since last April and had convicted of espionage, announced the ex-American diplomat Bill Richardson, specializing in delicate missions. The consideration was not specified.
This article is originally published on arabnews.fr