Russia’s New Commander, Battle over Soledar, Tank Deliveries: What does it mean for the Ukraine War?

Fighting continued in the Town of Soledar

Fighting continued in the eastern Ukrainian town of Soledar on Thursday, with Russian forces using jets and mortars in an unrelenting assault. Russia’s Wagner mercenary group claimed to have taken control of Soledar but Ukrainian officials disputed the claim. Ukrainian defense officials acknowledged that troops were facing a difficult battle in the town. “The fiercest and heaviest fighting is continuing today in the area of Soledar,” Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar told reporters on Thursday. “Despite the difficult situation, Ukrainian soldiers are fighting stubbornly,” she added.

On Thursday, Ukraine said it was sending reinforcements and supplies to Soledar, as well as to the eastern city of Bakhmut. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced the move following a meeting in Kyiv with the Ukrainian army’s general staff. Soledar is an important gateway town that could allow Russia to turn their attention to other areas of Donetsk province that remain under Ukrainian control, especially the nearby strategic city of Bakhmut. Putin stated his goal of seizing the Donbas region, made up of the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, when he launched the invasion last year. Capturing Soledar, a town known for its salt mines, would give Russia and its Wagner group, a rare territorial gain.

The Russian Defense Ministry last evening also announced a change in its military leadership, naming General Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, as the top commander of the war. The previous commander, General Sergei Surovikin, nicknamed the “Butcher of Syria” for his brutal tactics during the Syrian war, was demoted to become Gerasimov’s deputy along with two other generals.

Germany faced increasing pressure on Thursday over its hesitancy to send Kyiv battle tanks after Poland said it was willing to do so. Poland is willing to transfer a company of German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, Polish President Andrzej Duda said during a visit to western Ukraine on Wednesday. Duda said, however, said that Poland could only transfer them as part of a broader coalition of countries willing to send so-called “main battle tanks” that can destroy other tanks. A company typically consists of 14 tanks. Zelenskyy said he was “awaiting a joint decision” because “one country cannot provide us with a sufficient number of them.”

Berlin would need to sign off on the move to send German-made tanks, but German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said earlier this week that they have not received a request to send the tanks to Ukraine. Germany last week announced it was going to send Marder infantry fighting vehicles, but pressure is now building for it to supply more powerful battle tanks to Ukraine. The UK earlier this week said it was ready to send a dozen of its own battle tanks and France has also been reportedly increasing pressure on Berlin to send main battle tanks ahead of a bilateral summit between the leaders of France and Germany on January 22.
Credit to : DW News

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