News Ukraine says its army has repelled relentless Russian attacks in east
- Kyiv difficult to describe Soleddar’s situation
- No visible signs of casualties at Russian barracks
- Zelensky says Russia strikes despite declaration of truce
Kyiv/KRAMATORSK, Ukraine, Jan 8 (Reuters) – Ukrainian authorities said on Monday that Ukraine was strengthening its forces in the East Donbas region and repelling attacks by Russian mercenary Wagner on Bakhmut. and constant attacks on other towns.
They said reinforcements had been sent to Soledar, a small town near Bakhmut, where conditions were particularly difficult.
“The enemy again made a desperate attack on the city of Soledar from different directions and threw Wagner’s most professional troops into battle,” the Ukrainian military said in a statement.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in an evening video address on Sunday that the Bakhmut and Soledar towns, despite widespread devastation, were safe after months of attacks. Still holding on.
“Our soldiers are repelling Russian attempts to advance,” he said. At Soledar, “things are very difficult”.
Further north in the Kharkov region, Russian missiles hit a market in the village of Shevchenkov, killing a 60-year-old woman and wounding several others, regional governor Oleh Synehubov said.
Video posted by public broadcaster Suspilne on the Telegram messaging app showed rescuers sifting through piles of rubble, overturned and burning stalls and a large pit.
“Ordinary terrorists,” Ukraine’s chief of staff to the president, Andrey Yermak, condemned the attack in a telegram.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of Wagner’s mercenary group, said Saturday that its importance lies in the mine network there.
“Not only does it (capable of holding) a large group of people at a depth of 80-100 meters, but tanks and infantry fighting vehicles can also move.”
Military analysts say Moscow’s strategic military interests will be limited. A U.S. official said Prigozhin, a powerful ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was eyeing salt and gypsum from mines there.
Sergey Cherevati, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Eastern Command, said he believed the situation could stabilize.
“There was brutal and bloody fighting there – 106 shellings in one day,” he said on Ukrainian television.
“To this end, our forces in Soledad have allocated additional forces and means and are doing everything possible to improve the operational situation there.”
Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports.
no christmas ceasefire
Zelensky again condemned what he said was Russia’s failure to abide by the ceasefire it announced on Friday and Saturday for Russian Orthodox Christmas.
Ukraine never agreed to a ceasefire, saying it was a pretext for Russia to increase its troops. Both sides have accused the other of continuing hostilities throughout the period.
“The Russians firebombed Kherson immediately after Christmas,” he said, referring to the southern city that was abandoned by Russian troops in November.
“The attack on Kramatorsk and other cities in the Donbass – targeted civilian targets and coincided with Moscow reporting what it called the ‘silence’ of its troops.”
Russia said on Sunday that missiles hit Kramatorsk, northwest of Bakhmut, killing 600 Ukrainian soldiers, but Reuters reporters at the scene found no obvious signs of casualties.
A Reuters team visited two university dormitories that Moscow said were temporary housing for Ukrainian personnel who were targeting revenge for the New Year’s attack that killed dozens of Russian soldiers and sparked an outcry in Russia.
But none of the dormitories in the eastern city of Kramatorsk appeared to have been directly hit or seriously damaged. There was no obvious sign that soldiers had lived there, and there were no dead bodies or blood.
Serhiy Cherevatyi, a military spokesman for Ukraine’s eastern region, described the claims of mass casualties as an attempt by the Russian Ministry of Defense to show that it had responded forcefully to Ukraine’s recent attacks on Russian soldiers.
“It was an information operation by the Russian Defense Ministry,” Cherevatyi told Suspilne News.
As Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine approaches the one-year mark, the Russian military is under domestic pressure to emerge victorious on the battlefield.
Hawkish voices have sought to escalate the war effort after setbacks such as the loss of occupied territories and high casualty rates.
Some prominent Russian military bloggers criticized the Russian Defense Ministry’s claims.
“Let’s talk ‘fraud’,” wrote a prominent pro-war military blogger on the Telegram messaging app, who posts under the guise of a military informant and has more than 500,000 subscribers.
“We don’t know who, for what reason, decided that 600 Ukrainian soldiers were dead inside at the same time, if the building wasn’t actually hit (and the lights were even on).
“Instead of actually destroying enemy personnel, which would have been a worthy response, a dedicated media retaliation was invented.”
Russian and Ukrainian militaries routinely exaggerate enemy losses while minimizing their own.
Some 760 Russian soldiers were killed or wounded in two attacks in the Moscow-controlled Kherson and Zaporozhye regions, Ukraine’s top military official said last week. The reports could not be independently verified.
Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Lincoln Feast and Philippa Fletcher; Editing by Lisa Shumaker, Clarence Fernandez and Peter Graff
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