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the Russians are advancing in Bakhmout and Soledar, with the salt mines in their sights?

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The Russian army has nibbling ground in these two towns where the Wagner militia has been engaged in fierce fighting since mid-May. The region is renowned for its rich deposits.

The bloodiest front of the war. Since May 17, the city of Bakhmout, in the oblast of Donetsk has been the scene of fierce fighting between Russians and Ukrainians. Under a deluge of fire, buried in trenches, the soldiers of kyiv resist and yield very little ground. But in recent days, the Kremlin army, supported by the Wagner militia and Chechen regiments, has been advancing in Bakhmout and the nearby town of Soledar.

In Bakhmout,the Russians would have advanced a little in the east of the city but also in the south. Above all, their maneuver to the southwest would have succeeded and after taking the area between Bakhmout and Klichiivka to the south, they would have invested this last locality.», announces General Olivier Kempf, in its weekly thread.

At Soledar,the Ukrainians have been forced to retreat for two days and would only control a small half of the cityadds this attentive observer of the conflict. According to him, “the Russians would push further north, towards Krasnopolivka, and south, throughout the space between Soledar and Bakhmout“.

A very strategic position

If the fighting is so deadly in Bakhmout and its region, and that the advances on both sides are minimal, it is because the city presents a real strategic interest. It is an important logistics and railway hub where two major highways meet. Above all, the fall of Bakhmout would open the way for the Russians to Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, two essential cities for the Ukrainians.

In this sense, if Soledar were to fall, the Ukrainian army in Bakhmout would be caught in a pincer movement with Russian troops coming from the North, East and South. But “the possession of Bakhmout ruined by months of shelling would bring nothing decisive because the Russians would come up against heights and new lines of Ukrainian defense in the direction of Kramatorsk“, recently tempered the military historian Cédric Mas for Le Figaro .

For now, Bakhmout and Soledarhold up despite everythingas President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday, January 8, promising to send more units to the area. On the same day, the spokesman of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the East, Serhiy Cherevaty, assured that the Russian army does not control Soledar. Some official Ukrainian sources, quoted by the very serious Institute for the Study of War (ISW), also indicated that their army had taken over some Russian positions near Bakhmout. But “the Russian advance north of Bakhmout is reinforced by pressure in the south, where Klishchiivka was hit“Notes Cédric Mas on Twitter.

Proof of the importance of the fighting in the region, the commander of the Ukrainian land forces Ivan Syrskyi went to Bakhmout and Soledar on Sunday, to decorate the fighters engaged on this front. He also promised that steps would be taken to improve the defense of the two cities.

Important salt deposits

The region, and in particular the town of Soledar, also offers a second strategic interest for the two belligerents. Because there are deposits of gypsum, clay and chalk, but above all large salt mines, from which the state-owned company Artemsol extracts some seven million tonnes of mineral each year. It’s at Soledar, which literally means “give the saltwhich is the most important of them.

Does this element explain the ferocity of the fighting and Wagner’s increased presence in the region? In his daily reportthe ISW believes, quoting a White House official, that Yevgeny Prigojine, the boss of the mercenary group, would seek to extract salt and gypsum from the mines in the region, for financial purposes, as the militia has used to do in Africa.

Still according to the ISW, Prigojine tried to justify the importance of these mines by their defensive character “unique and historic‘, which acts like ‘a network of underground mines“, sinking up to 100 meters deep.

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