Why Russia wants to take over the Ukrainian city of Solidar at all costs?

 Why Russia wants to take over the Ukrainian city of Solidar at all costs?

The Russian army has been waging intense and violent attacks on Solidar, located in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, which is on the verge of falling into the hands of Russian Wagner forces, the head of the paramilitary group announced Wednesday, admitting that battles are still raging in the center of the town. Given the repeated unsuccessful attempts to occupy the small town adjacent to Bakhmut, it seems that Moscow wants to achieve victory there at any cost.

The town of Soledar, located in eastern Ukraine in the heart of the Donetsk region, about 10 km from the city of Bakhmut, has been witnessing fierce fighting for several days between the Ukrainian army and the mercenaries of the Russian paramilitary Wagner group, backed by pro-Moscow separatists.

On Wednesday, the group's leader Yevgeny Prigogine announced through his propaganda machine on communication platforms that his fighters had taken control of Solidar after intense battles during the current week, but continued, "fighting on the Street," with an emphasis on the last phrase.

In turn, he called on the Kremlin not to "rush" to declare victory and the Russian Defense Ministry confirmed that the battles between Ukrainian and Russian troops in Solidar are still ongoing. The ministry explained: "mobile units disabled access to the northern and southern parts of Solidar. The Russian Air Force strikes enemy strongholds. "The city is now seeing offensive troops battling.

For his part, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolak said on Wednesday that the fight for control of Solidar and Bakhmut is the bloodiest for Russian and Ukrainian troops since the war began.

But, why did this small town, whose population before the start of the Russian invasion on February 24 did not exceed 10 thousand people, become one of the main military targets of Moscow in its war on Ukraine

Invasion of the Donetsk region

"Obviously, there is a strategic importance behind this attack on Solidar," says Sim Tak, a military analyst specializing in armed conflicts and defense policy, explaining: "to the East, the Lugansk region is completely under Russian control, but in the Donetsk region the main cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk are still Ukrainian.

Thus, the occupation of Solidar is part of a larger operation to establish control over Donetsk, the region that pro-Russian separatists have been trying to control since 2014, one of four regions in eastern Ukraine that Russia annexed last September, following controversial referendums that Kyiv and its Western allies did not recognize.

For Moscow, the control of Solidar will allow achieving several goals, the most notable of which is the strengthening of the positions of its troops near Bakhmut. Donetsk separatist leader Denis Pushilin told Russian television on Tuesday that the extension of control over Solidar would open up "good prospects" for controlling Bakhmut as well as for launching a new offensive on the town of Seversk to the North.

In turn, the British Ministry of Defense explained that the capture of Solidar would inevitably allow Russian troops to reach Bakhmut. British military intelligence also said that "the Russian advance towards Solidar is most likely aimed at encircling Bakhmut from the North and confusing Ukrainian lines of communication".

"The dominance of Solidar will open the doors of Bakhmut," says military expert Sim Tak. Most major cities in the West, including Slovyansk and Kramatorsk, are accessible from Bakhmut, he says. Therefore, the conquest of the Donetsk area is the stated objective of the current Russian attack.

Control of tunnels stretching over kilometers
It seems obvious that this small city is important for the mercenaries of the Wagner Group, which has deployed its elements on the front line of the attack fronts in Solidar, even part of the battles it is waging are aimed specifically at controlling the entrance to an old salt mine in the town, and miles of galleries and underpasses under it. The capture of Solidar means the seizure of about 200 kilometers of tunnels stretching across the entire Bakhmut region, which are likely to house troops or military equipment.

SIM Tak recalls that it is "not the first time that this type of strategy has been used. It is enough to see what happened in Syria, where tunnels were periodically used," he said.

In addition to hiding equipment and soldiers thanks to tunnels, Solidar mines pass under the front line and therefore Russian troops can exploit them to "sneak behind enemy lines". According to the assessment of British military intelligence.

In turn, the American Research Center "Institute for the study of war (ISW)" adds another explanation for the Russian obsession with the town of Solidar, connected with the personal ambitions of the founder of the Wagner mercenary group Yevgeny Prigogine. According to ISW and also the Reuters news agency, citing a source in the US White House, the Russian businessman close to Putin is interested in the financial wealth that he could achieve if he acquired the Ukrainian natural resources located around the city of Bakhmut.

According to the Institute for the study of war, Yevgeny Prigogine's" long and costly determination to establish his control over the region "can also be explained by the value of Solidar's rich natural resources, including deposits of gypsum, clay, chalk, and especially salt, whose reserves are estimated at about 2,000 years.

Communication warfare

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the "strong" Russian army has suffered a series of defeats at the hands of Ukrainian troops supported by the United States and its European allies. But later the conflict turned into a war of attrition in which Russia suffered successive setbacks.

For Ukraine, the defense of Solidar is of practical importance, namely, the gain of time. In this regard, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky explained on Monday evening that" thanks to the resistance of our soldiers there, in Soledar, we won extra time and[preserved] the troops for the sake "of the country, and after congratulating his people and army on these achievements, he added:" Everything was completely destroyed... The entire territory of Solidar is covered with the corpses of invaders and now bears the scars of explosions. This is what madness looks like". In turn, Moscow is looking for victory at all costs, even if it leaves a bitter aftertaste. In Solidar, Russia deployed a large number of units consisting of the most important reserve forces of the Wagner Group, and attacks continued to control the city. "The Russians will certainly present the Battle of Solidar as a great victory," explains military expert SIM Tak. "But in fact, an attack of this kind is very expensive in terms of destroyed equipment and loss of fighters, as was the case with the Battle of popasna," the city located in the Lugansk region, east of Solidar, which Russian troops took control of in May 2022, but after its equipment was "completely destroyed," according to the same spokesman. "We have already seen how Russia had to revise its goals, such as when it lost the Kherson and Kharkiv regions, "Tak continued. In this context, he pointed to the Russian withdrawal from almost the entire Kharkiv region in the northeast of the country in September, and the restoration by Ukrainian forces last November of control over the city of Kherson, the only regional capital that fell into the hands of the Russians. "The fact is that Moscow is embroiled in a ground war that will take time, and the cold will not be an auxiliary factor. Progress is also very slow, " he said.

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