The head of a Russian mercenary group, Wagner, claims his forces have completed the takeover Ukrainian city Soledar, which, if confirmed, would mark Moscow’s first major battlefield success since last summer. “Wagner’s units have taken the entire territory of Soledar under control,” Yevgeny Prigozhin said in an audio message posted on his Telegram channel late Tuesday. Soledar, home to vast salt mines, has symbolic, military and commercial value for Russia.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the “heroic” defenders of Soledar but he did not provide an update on the military situation in his overnight address on Tuesday.
Russian forces practiced tank, mortar and artillery fire on AvdiyevkaUkraine’s armed forces said, another Russian focus south of Bakhmut and not far from the city of Donetsk, which has been held by Russian proxies since 2014.
Russian artillery fire in Ukraine has dropped drastically from its wartime peak, in some places by as much as 75 percent according to US and Ukrainian officials. The drop in shelling is further evidence of Russia’s weakening position on the battlefield nearly a year after its invasion, officials told CNN. Officials did not provide a single explanation for the apparent drop in artillery fire.
Western officials have warned that Ukraine will not be able to take a significant amount of territory from Russia without increasing its military capabilities, including tanks and armored vehicles. Russian and Ukrainian forces are currently too closely matched for the Ukrainians to launch a major offensive, a Western official said on Tuesday. They said Ukraine’s reported call for 300 tanks was “not an unreasonable number” to create the mass of forces they needed to launch an attack.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday that his government will buy a US air defense system to donate to Ukraine. The US-built air defense system cost C$406 million ($302 million), Defense Minister Anita Anand said. “Canada will continue to stand with the Ukrainian people as they fight Russia’s illegal and unjustified invasion,” Anand said.
Ukrainian troops are to begin training on the Patriot missile system in the US as early as next week, US officials said. The training program will be held at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and the program is expected to last “several months,” one said. During Zelensky’s visit to the US in December, Joe Biden announced $1.85 billion (£1.54 billion) in new military aid to Kiev, including the delivery of the Patriot missile battery system. The US is also reportedly considering sending Stryker armored fighting vehicles to Ukraine. The move could be announced next week, but no final decision has been made, Politico reported, citing two sources familiar with the matter.
Russia appointed Colonel-General Alexander Lapin as the chief of staff of the country’s ground forcesthe state news agency TASS reported, despite criticism from hawks over his performance in Ukraine.
The family of one of two Britons missing in Ukraine have said they are “very worried and concerned” for his health. Chris Parry, 28, was last seen on Friday with Briton Andrew Bagshaw, 48, heading towards the town of Soledar in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region. The men worked as volunteers helping people evacuate from the front line.
Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report