Ukrainian forces withdraw from population in Donbas

kyiv (HPD) — Ukrainian forces have withdrawn in an orderly fashion from a town in the eastern Donbas region, an official said Wednesday, handing the Kremlin a rare, if modest, victory after a series of battlefield setbacks since the invasion began 11 months ago.

The Ukrainian army withdrew from the mining town of Soledar to “preserve the lives of personnel,” local Ukrainian forces spokesman Serhii Cherevatyi told The Associated Press.

He added that the soldiers withdrew to prepared defensive positions.

Moscow has said that the battle of Soledar, neighboring the city of Bakhmut, is key to taking all of Donbas.

Russian forces have taken another step towards Bakhmut, but military analysts say the capture of Soledar is more symbolic than strategic.

Ukrainian forces, which held out for months against the Russian offensive with superior forces at Soledar, say their stubborn defense of the eastern stronghold helped slow down the Russians.

Many of the Russian troops in Soledar belong to the Russian private military company Wagner Group, and the fighting has been bloody, according to reports.

Full control of Donbas — a region made up of Donetsk and Luhansk provinces where Russia has backed a separatist insurgency since 2014 — has been Moscow’s priority in its invasion of Ukraine. It has taken most of Luhansk, but half of Donetsk is still under Ukrainian control.

Taking the town would allow Russian forces to cut Ukrainian supply lines at Bakhmut, although the strength of the new Ukrainian defensive positions is unknown.

The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said weeks ago that Soledar’s fall would not mean “an operationally significant advance and hardly bodes well for Bakhmut being encircled by the Russians.”

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