Ukraine Latest: Russia Recognizes Wagner’s Key Role in Soledar
Russia’s defense ministry said its forces captured the salt-mining town of Soledar, northeast of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.
(Bloomberg) -- Russia’s defense ministry said its forces captured the salt-mining town of Soledar, northeast of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine after weeks of intense fighting, even as Kyiv said its troops were still engaged in a battle there. A CNN team in the area witnessed Ukrainian troops withdrawing in an organized pullback.
In a later statement, Russia’s ministry acknowledged the role of the Kremlin-affiliated Wagner mercenary group in capturing the town.
Italy offered use of its logistics infrastructure, including the Adriatic Sea ports of Venice and Trieste, for Ukraine’s exports, Industry Minister Adolfo Urso said in an interview Friday. Urso had met with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and other Ukrainian officials in Kyiv on Thursday.
(See RSAN on the Bloomberg Terminal for the Russian Sanctions Dashboard.)
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On the Ground
The Ukrainian army repelled Russian attacks near 17 settlements in Ukraine’s east, mostly in the Donetsk region, in the past 24-hour period, the General Staff said on Facebook. Russia carried out five missile strikes on residential areas in Kostyantynivka, Kramatorsk and Zaporizhzhia, 18 aviation strikes and 52 strikes from multiple launch rocket systems. Ukrainian troops hit Russian military strongholds 16 times, and downed an Su-24 airplane and a drone. Two people were killed and one injured in Russian shelling of a settlement in the Kharkiv region Friday afternoon, the local governor said.
(All times CET)
Lithuania Gas Pipeline Suffered Blast, Distributor Says (7:38 p.m.)
An explosion occurred on a main gas pipeline in northern Lithuania that links to neighboring Latvia, Lithuania’s gas distributor Amber Grid AB said in a statement.
No one injured in the blast that occurred around 5 p.m. local time, and the fire was in the process of being extinguished. There was no immediate indication that the explosion had a link to Lithuania and Latvia’s support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s invasion.
Russia Says Says Wagner Group Led Assault on Soledar (6 p.m.)
The attack on the salt-mining town of Soledar was carried out by different groups of Russian forces, with the direct assault on Ukrainian troops holding the town conducted by the Kremlin-affiliated private mercenary group Wagner, Interfax reported, citing Russia’s defense ministry.
The “offensive actions” were carried out according to “a single concept and plan, which provided the solution of a complex of combat tasks,” according to the statement cited by Interfax which gave details of the assault plan.
The direct assault on the parts of town occupied by Ukraine’s armed forces “was successfully solved by the courageous and selfless actions of” Wagner forces, the ministry said.
Germany Close to Decision on Leopard Tanks to Ukraine (3:16 p.m.)
Germany is leaning toward supplying Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine and is likely to make a decision soon, according to two officials familiar with the government’s thinking.
Berlin will make a decision before a meeting of senior defense officials from allied nations at the American airbase in Ramstein in a week’s time, according to an official familiar with the plans.
Read more: Germany Closes In on a Decision to Send Leopard Tanks to Ukraine
Ukrainian Troops Pulling Back From Soledar: CNN (2:30 p.m.)
Although Ukraine’s armed forces have denied Russia’s claim that Kremlin troops have control of Soledar, Kyiv’s troops are being ferried out of area in “what appears to be a fairly organized pullback,” CNN reported from just outside the town in eastern Ukraine.
Mortar and rocket fire was ongoing on Friday, CNN said.
Ukraine’s 2023 Grain Corridor Shipments Hit 1 Million Tons (1:40 p.m.)
Shipments from Ukraine’s Black Sea grain corridor have hit 1 million tons so far in 2023, the country’s infrastructure ministry said in an emailed statement.
Some 17 ships are currently being loaded in Greater Odesa ports, five are heading toward the area, and 104 are waiting in a queue in Bosphorus, Turkey, to be inspected. Total food shipments from unblocked Ukrainian ports have reached 17.3 million tons since Aug. 1 under the safe-transit initiative.
Ukrainian Parliament Pulls Mandates of 10 Pro-Russia Deputies (1:30 p.m.)
Ten representatives of Ukraine’s pro-Russian Verkhovna Rada faction have been stripped of their mandates in a decision of the parliamentary majority, David Arakhamiya, head of the Sluha Narodu majority faction said on Telegram.
The ten include Victor Medvedchuk, a politician close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was arrested by Ukraine and charged with treason in 2021. Medvedchuk was handed over to Russia as part of a prisoner swap in September. Also included were Andriy Derkach, Taras Kozak and Rinat Kuzmin. All four were stripped of Ukrainian citizenship by a recent presidential decree.
Russian Oil Turns to Russian Tankers as Sanctions Bite (12:48 P.M.)
Sweeping European sanctions on the purchase and transportation of Russian oil have prompted the country to transport more crude on its own tankers.
The EU banned almost all seaborne oil imports from Russia from Dec. 5, and joined with Group of Seven nations in capping the price at which Moscow can sell barrels. Since then, European-owned tankers have taken about 30% of the cargoes shipped from Russia’s key western oil ports, down from about half before. The share moving on Russian vessels has risen to 35%, up from 22% previously.
Ukraine Pushes Back on Russian Claim it Has Captured Soledar (11:52 a.m.)
Russia’s defense ministry said Russian forces captured the salt-mining town of Soledar in eastern Ukraine late on Thursday after intense fighting.
Forces from Russia’s private contractor Wagner have been at the forefront of the assault on Soledar, which has cost major casualties. Ukraine’s military said fighting continues. While the situation in Soledar is “very difficult,” it’s “under control,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told the BBC.
The defense ministry in Moscow said the town’s fall will allow Russia to encircle the city of Bakhmut to the southwest. Military analysts say Ukrainian forces will find it harder to defend Bakhmut if Soledar is captured, but are still capable of repelling the Russian attacks. Fighting continues in the city of Bakhmut, with over 30 combat clashes within a day, Ukrainian Eastern command spokesman Serhiy Cherevatyi said on TV.
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