Ukraine war: Russia controls most of destroyed salt mine town

 RUSSIA IS “likely” to now be in control of most of the salt-min­ing town of Soledar in Ukraine’s east after a months-long battle with Ukrainian forces, the UK’s Ministry of Defence has said.

Russian troops and the mercenary Wagner Group have made advances in the past four days, the UK said.

Soledar is near Bakhmut, where Ukraine is also locked in a bloody battle.

President Zelensky said there was “almost no life” in Soledar, with “no whole walls left”.

He also said “the whole land near Soledar is covered with the corpses of the occupiers”.

“This is what madness looks like,” he added. Soledar – which had a population of around 10,000 before the war – may be seen mainly as a stepping stone to capturing Bakhmut, and its strategic value is questionable.

But a US official said last week that Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner Group’s founder, wants control of the large salt and gypsum mines in the area.

The UK said part of the fighting had focused on entrances to the 200km-long disused tunnels and that both Russia and Ukraine “are likely concerned that they could be used for infiltration behind their lines”.

Mr Prigozhin has confirmed his interest in the mines, calling them “the icing on the cake” in the strategic importance of the Bakhmut area.

He described them as a “network of un­derground cities” that can hold “a big group of people at a depth of 80-100 metres”, and can also allow tanks and other military vehicles to move freely.

However, Britain believes Russia is “un­likely” to take Bakhmut itself immediately due to Ukraine’s “stable defence lines”.

Meanwhile, a senior military official from the US Department of Defence said on Monday there was a “good portion” of Sole­dar in Russian hands. -BBC

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