By aggressively attacking the small town of Soledar in the Donetsk region, the Wagner Group will show that it can do what the Russian military cannot: take land from the Ukrainians.
Two leading experts, Peter Viggo-Jakobsen at the Department of Strategy and War Studies at the Danish Defense Academy and war researcher Ilmarie Kehko at the Aleksanteri Institute in Helsinki, said this to VG.
Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin – often called “Putin’s chef” – founded the Wagner Group, a private military mercenary company based in southwestern Russia, near the annexed Crimea peninsula.
– Whether they took an order from Vladimir Putin or whether Wagner’s boss Yevgeny Prigozhin just wants to show that his soldiers are better than the army, we don’t know for sure, says Jacobsen.
– This is Prigozhin’s attempt to show how important he is for Russia and the future of Russia, Kyhko believes.
– Units of the Wagner Group took full control of Solidar, Prigozhin’s press service reported on Telegram at 10 pm Norwegian time.
They write that a cauldron has been set up in the city center where the fighting is still going on.
– The number of prisoners will be announced tomorrow, Prigozhin writes in the manifesto, and continues:
– I would like to emphasize once again that only Wagner units took part in the assault on Solidar, Prigozhzhin writes.
For a long time, Yevgeny Prigozhin has been harshly critical of the Russian Armed Forces for their efforts in the war.
He attracted a lot of attention this summer when he toured concentration camps and recruited soldiers who were promised amnesty in exchange for becoming mercenaries for the military group.
British Ministry of Defense Intelligence Tuesday confirms claims from Moscow that Russia now controls most of Solidar, where the giant salt is produced. Ukraine and Russia both reported heavy losses to their opponents.
But fighting continued on Tuesday in the city.
– Tough battles to keep Solidar going. In a statement on Telegram on Tuesday at 19:00, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said that the enemy ignores that it has lost many soldiers and continues to actively storm it.
Separatist leader Denis Pushlin claims to be in Russian-occupied Donetsk accordingly palm Russian forces have taken control of the small town of Soledar in Donetsk.
Deputy Minister of Defense of Ukraine Anna Malgar said on Monday Russia is using soldiers from the controversial Wagner Private Group in this attack.
Peter Viggo-Jakobsen says they don’t know much about the Russian attack, but he estimates the number of soldiers in Wagner’s group to be around 25,000.
– It may seem that the Wagner Group is now able to make a frontal breakthrough and conquer the ground. Russia has not been able to do this for a long time. For several months things were going badly for the Russians. It seems that Wagner’s leader Prigozhin wants to show that his soldiers are better at fighting than the regular armed forces.
Boss Wagner wants more power: – Putin must be impatient
Vladimir Putin is under pressure from Yevgeny Prigozhin and his private military, the Wagner Group.
– After all, Prigozhin came up with very harsh criticism of the army. Now it seems he wants to position himself as Russia’s savior and do what the armed forces have failed to do.
– What can you say about these soldiers?
– Allegedly, the Wagner Group suffered huge losses in this war, and we do not know how many of those who are fighting now are experienced soldiers. But there is ample evidence that the soldiers these people use are people who were taken straight out of prisons and sent straight to the front, that is, without preparation.
We also heard from the survivors that useless soldiers are thrown into the fight to keep the fight going. I don’t have good information about how many war-accustomed Wagner soldiers and how many prisons are being used as “cannon fodder,” says Peter Viggo-Jakobsen of the Danish Defense Academy.
– But what is happening now could be an internal Russian conflict between the armed forces and the Wagner Group?
– It may be so, but it is positive for all Russian forces, because the Wagner Group connects Ukrainian forces that cannot be used anywhere else. They must defend themselves against the fierce Russian attacks. This means that Ukraine cannot decide when and where to attack in the same way as it has so far.
A Ukrainian prisoner of war says in a video clip prepared by the news agency Ria, that Ukraine has suffered “colossal” losses, dead and wounded, recently. He also says that Ukrainian forces have a poor plan to evacuate the wounded. VG doesn’t know if a person is being pressured into saying it.
The British Ministry of Defense wrote in its intelligence report on Tuesday morning that Russian forces may be trying to approach Bakhmut from the north – thus disrupting Ukrainian supply lines. Solidar is located 10 km north of Bakhmut.
The battles in Solidar take place, among other things, over the entrances to the tunnels of the huge salt-producing mines there. According to the British Ministry of Defense, there are 200 kilometers of tunnels – they can be used to infiltrate behind the front line.
– So to speak, there has been no front-line change in the past two months. Russia has not made any progress since this summer. That is why there is so much interest in this attack, and a victory here could be important for Russian propaganda, says Ilmari Kehko of the Alexantiri Institute.
Prigozhin’s press service published, on Tuesday evening, a photo of what they claimed were Wagner soldiers in a mine in Soledar.
– How important did the mine tunnels become?
– It is being discussed whether it can be used to enter enemy positions, but we do not yet know whether it can be used militarily.
Could the massive salt production in Solidar be the aim of the Russians?
– There is speculation about whether Prigozhin sees economic opportunities in the salt mines, but I doubt whether that is what matters now, Ilmari Käihkö replies.
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