Russia claims control of Soledar, Ukraine says fighting ongoing

Russia said on Jan. 13 its forces had wrested control of the war-scarred town of Soledar in east Ukraine, its first claim of victory in months of battlefield setbacks, but Ukraine said fierce fighting was still under way.

Both sides have conceded heavy losses in the battle for the salt mining outpost, with Moscow desperate to sell any win back home after repeated humiliations and Ukraine determined to hold -- and win back -- ground.The Russian defence ministry announced it had "completed the liberation" of Soledar late the previous day and that the victory would pave the way for more "successful offensive operations" in the Donetsk region.In a separate statement, it praised the "courageous and selfless" forces of mercenary group Wagner for storming Soledar.

The nod was an unusual recognition of the controversial force following talk of infighting and rivalry between Wagner and the official military.The founder of Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, insists that his force spearheaded the offensive for Soledar.- 'Where should we go?' -Kyiv dismissed Russia's announcement and said "severe fighting" was ongoing in Soledar, an industrial town with a pre-war population of about 10,000 now reduced to rubble.Ukraine's Deputy Defence Minister Ganna Malyar said earlier that Russia had moved most of its forces around Donetsk to capture Soledar.

"This is a difficult phase of the war," she said.In Siversk, a town north of Soledar that could be next in line for the Russian advance, artillery echoed around the battered buildings dotted with a few remaining residents and Ukrainian military personnel braving light snow and freezing wind.Oleksandr Sirenko, who was chopping window frames and floors from destroyed flats into smaller pieces for firewood, said he did not...

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