Ukraine disputes Russian claims of Soledar capture, Wagner feud escalates

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Jan. 13 (UPI) — Russian and Ukrainian forces continued to clash around the eastern city of Soledar, as Russian officials claim to have taken control of the salt-mining town.

“In the evening of 12 January, the city of Soledar, that is of great importance for continuing successful offensive operations in Donetsk direction, was liberated,” the Russian Ministry of Defense wrote in a Telegram post Friday.

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Ukrainian officials claimed their forces were still putting up resistance in the city.

“The night in Soledar was hot, battles continued. The enemy threw almost all the main forces to the Donetsk area and maintains a high intensity of offensive,” Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister, Hanna Maliar, said Friday. She also emphasized that Ukrainian forces were “bravely trying to hold the line.”

The Wagner mercenary group and Russian military are vying to take credit for the ground battle in Soledar. On Monday, Wagner head, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said he wanted to “emphasize that Soledar was taken exclusively by Wagner PMC units,” in a post to Wagner’s Telegram group.

The Russian Ministry of Defense credited airborne forces of the regular military for advances into Soledar.

“Airborne Troops have blocked Soledar, from the northern and southern parts of the city,” the ministry wrote on Telegram on Wednesday.

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The Wagner mercenary group subsequently posted a video disputing Russian Defense Ministry’s claims that regular military units were involved in the assault on Soledar. In the video two men with their faces hidden claim to be regular Russian forces in an underground facility.

“We are officers of the Airborne Forces, we declare that the Airborne Forces did not take part in the assault on the city of Soledar,” one of the men can be heard saying. UPI is not able to verify the authenticity of the claim.

The feud between Wagner and the Russian Ministry of Defense escalated further on Friday as Prigozhin disparaged the ministry in a Telegram post.

“They constantly steal victory from Wagner PMC and talk about the presence of someone who is not clear, just to belittle their merits,” Prigozhin said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Ukrainian troops for their defense of Soledar in his daily address.

“I would like to highlight the paratroopers of the 77th separate airmobile brigade, who along with the fighters of the 46th separate airmobile brigade in Soledar hold their positions and inflict signifiant losses on the enemy,” he said.

Russian forces shelled the eastern city of Kurakhove, injuring one person, according to the Head of the Donetsk Regional Military Administration, Pavlo Kyrylenko.

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“One person was injured in the massive shelling of Kurakhove. At least eight private houses and four apartment blocks are damaged in the town, a shell hit the territory of a utility company,” Kyrylenko wrote in a Telegram message.

French Minister of Defense, Sebastien Lecornu said France intends to send AMX 10-RC light tanks to Ukraine, in a statement on Friday.