On a road near the city of Solentar, Ukrainians soldiers send a spy drone to the area where the Russian forcesas they prepare to fend off another attack.
The Ukrainian military admitted on Wednesday that its forces had withdrawn from Solentar, a city in the Donetsk region where the heaviest fighting took place since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24.
“For 2-3 days we lost our positions, but now we are trying to recover them,” assures Igor, a Ukrainian soldier in the area.
The Russian Wagner mercenary group that allegedly spearheaded the attack on Solentar announced its capture on January 11.
Two days later, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that its forces were in control of the town, which before the war had a population of about 10,000. The capture of Solentar is the first major success of the Russian army in months. It was preceded by a series of defeats and setbacks on the eastern and southern fronts.
Ukrainian military spokesman Serhiy Tserevaty told AFP that his forces had retreated after weeks of heavy fighting. “We are building a new line of defense, with fortifications in other places, while we continue to deal heavy blows to the enemy,” he added. According to him, the deployment was carefully planned, with no “encirclement” or “mass captures” of Ukrainian soldiers.
A sergeant named Alcor said “the fighting was fierce” and the enemy had a large numerical advantage. “We were firing non-stop, but five minutes later a new wave of 20 enemies was coming at us (…) Their number was enormous. They are using their soldiers as cannon fodder… Our people were saying ‘Stand up, don’t retreat'”.
While some Ukrainian soldiers are convinced that lost territory can be recaptured, others are not so sure.
“Solentar has fallen,” admitted the deputy commander of the 144th infantry battalion Volodymyr Leonov, which was deployed ten kilometers away. According to him, 27 soldiers signed a letter expressing their refusal to return to combat positions.
Yesterday Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a law that toughens the penalties for disobedience or desertion, providing for 10 and 12 years in prison respectively.
However, for some, prison may be preferable to death in a trench. At least “some people think so,” Leonov admits.
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