‘It’s a kind of hell’: The bitterly contested mining town where Putin hopes to secure his first victory in months | World News

Temperatures were well below freezing and columns of snow swirled across the roads as icy winds like millions of knives cut through the landscape.

But even in the deep winter, fighting rages on, and in and around the salt mining town of Soledar, it’s especially fierce.

Armored vehicles moved back and forth to the city gates, where they fired heavy machine guns at the oncoming enemy.

The leader of the Russian mercenary group, Wagner, claims to have captured the town but Ukrainian soldiers we spoke to say that is still hotly contested.

The sky over Soledar was covered with smoke and the ground shook with the incessant sound of artillery.

In hidden positions in the suburbs, Ukrainian drone operators gather intelligence as artillery shells whistle overhead.

A Ukrainian soldier defending Soledar
Bohdan, a Ukrainian soldier defending Soledar
Mykola, an elderly resident who remained in Soledar
Mykola, an elderly resident who remained in Soledar

Bohdan, one of the drone crews, denied that Russia had captured the town.

“Soldiers are holding their position in Soledar, the Russians want to encircle it on the flanks but they have taken a defensive stance, no one is retreating because it’s our land,” he said.

On his phone, he showed us new footage of the Russian military; The image is grainy but you can spot a soldier pulling an injured comrade to safety.

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But nowhere is it safe here, with both sides suffering heavy casualties. This war is relentless. The bullet-shocked civilians trapped in the middle existed in constant danger. And there’s not much hope as the front line gets closer.

“How can I say that everything is fine? You can see for yourself. The house was destroyed, everything was smashed – no gas, no water and no electricity.”

A Ukrainian soldier defending Soledar
Army orthopedic surgeon, Andriy Zholob, treating Ukrainian victims

At the hospital in Kramatorsk, several people with injuries from the front came to the emergency room. Many people were seriously injured. They often engage enemies at a distance of only 30 meters.

Army orthopedic surgeon Andriy Zholob says it’s proof of how fierce the fighting has become for the town.

“It’s close combat, we have gunfire [wounds]we have shrapnel wounds, etc, so this type of wound has increased.”

“It’s a kind of hell”

However, Russian forces have captured most of the town – and if they do, it will be the first victory for Vladimir Putin’s forces in months after many military defeats.

But it will pay a huge price in life.


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