Jan. 11 (UPI) — Russian officials and their allies said Wednesday they have made advances into the eastern Ukrainian town of Soledar.
The head of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said his forces had “taken control of all the territory of Soledar,” boasting that his forces were solely responsible for the Russian advance.
“I want to emphasize that no units other than the Wagner fighters took part in the assault on Soledar,” he said.
Russian officials refuted Prigozhin’s claims, saying that fighting is ongoing in the town. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said “there is a positive trend,” in Soledar, but stopped short of saying Russian forces were in control of the town.
Peskov also denied rumors that military-age men will be barred from leaving Russia, “this is a common information hoax and sabotage,” he said.
The Russian Ministry of Defense contradicted Prigozhin’s claim that only Wagner fighters were involved in the battle for Soledar.
“Russian Aerospace Forces strike at enemy strongholds,” the ministry said in a Telegram post about the battle for the town.
Ukrainian officials deny that Russia has seized the entirety of Soledar, and Ukrainian soldiers posted videos they claim show fighting ongoing inside the town on Wednesday.
“Having suffered losses, the enemy once again replaced its units, increased the number of Wagner’s troops, trying to break through the defense of our troops and completely take over the town, but is unsuccessful,” Ukraine‘s deputy defense minister, Hanna Maliar, said in a Telegram post Wednesday.
Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, claimed that the Biden administration’s decision to train Ukrainian forces on the American-manufactured Patriot surface-to-air missile system amounts to “de facto” involvement in the Ukrainian conflict.
“The real goal of the administration is to inflict on Russia as much damage on the battlefield as possible, using Ukrainians as proxies,” Antonov said in a statement Tuesday.
A spokesperson for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed that his government will provide additional support for Ukraine “including the provision of tanks.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had the citizenship of four Ukrainian political figures stripped on Tuesday, including Viktor Medvedchuk, a pro-Kremlin politician who was sanctioned by the U.S. in January for allegedly trying to set up a collaborationist government to support Russia’s invasion.
In September, Medvedchuk and 55 Russian prisoners of war, were exchanged for 215 Ukrainians in Russian captivity.