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Putin’s Ukraine Victory in Soledar Was Thanks to Mercenaries

Russian Tank. Screenshot from video.

The Russian forces are most likely in control of the town of Soledar just north of Bakhmut.

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After fierce fighting that lasted more than three weeks, Russian forces led by the Wagner Group private military company are most likely in complete control of Soledar.

In Control of Soledar, Ukraine 

In its latest estimate of the war, the British Military Intelligence assessed that by the end of Monday, the Ukrainian military “highly likely withdrawn from the Donbas town of Soledar.”

The Ukrainian military has established defensive positions further to the West of the salt mining town,” leaving Russian military and Wagner Group proxy forces in control.” 

“Russia’s advance on Soledar primarily consisted of Wagner forces and was a supporting operation aimed to enable the eventual envelopment of the larger settlement of Bakhmut,” the British Military Intelligence assessed.

By capturing Soledar, the Russian forces are now closer to one of the main supply routes that support Bakhmut.

The other one rests in the south of the town, and the Russian forces have been trying to reach that too.

Meanwhile, in Bakhmut, the fighting continues in earnest. Both sides continue to rely on and employ long-range fires.

“Imagery shows that since the start of January 2023, the south and east of Bakhmut has continued to be subjected to intense artillery bombardment. Ukrainian forces almost certainly continue to defend against Russian forces on the outskirts of the city,” the British Military Intelligence added.

The Ukrainian forces continue to have an advantage in long-range precision fires, mainly through the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), and the M982 Excalibur artillery round used by the M777 155mm howitzers.

But the Ukrainian commanders are very conservative with their targets, only using their precious precision missiles and shells for targets that are worth it. 

On the other end, the Russians are having ammunition shortages and have to fire selectively.

Neither side seems to have a decisive advantage over the other, and so the carnage continues. 

Wagner Group Leading the Fight 

The private military company has been instrumental in the fighting for Soledar and Bakhmut.

Indeed, the Russian military has largely taken a back seat in the campaign to capture Bakhmut, with Wagner Group leading the way. 

According to the U.S. Intelligence Community, there are approximately 40,000 Wagner Group mercenaries on the ground in Ukraine.

A good portion of them are former convicts. A few months ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave the green light to Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin to tour the country’s prisons and penal colonies and recruit inmates for the war.

In exchange for a six-month tour of duty in Ukraine, Prigozhin promised the inmates their freedom. 

And yet few manage to survive. The Russian mercenaries have been suffering horrific casualties. Prigozhin and the Russian military leadership are literally using them as cannon fodder.

Footage from the ground shows fields full of dead bodies of Wagner Group contractors that got mowed down by the Ukrainians as they were trying to breach Soledar’s defenses. 

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Expert Biography: A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. 

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.