In the last twenty four hours, Ukrainian troops and Russian war correspondents have confirmed that Russian troops have entered Soledar, a settlement approximately two kilometers Northwest of Bakhmut. Russian state-owned media has claimed that Russian troops entered Soledar at approximately 1200 EST on 05JAN22 and that Ukrainian troops had withdrawn to the Western area of the settlement where the Solyanaya Symfonyya, Speleosanatoryy (Soledar Salt Mines) presents a significant obstacle for Russian Ground Forces. The mines have 125 miles of tunnel, are at a depth of 288m, and many of the chambers are 30 meters in height. The largest resembles a hangar of about 100 meters long and 40 meters width and 40 m height, and has accommodated soccer matches and the inflation of a hot air balloon.
The Russians were able to pressure the Ukrainians to withdraw from the residential Eastern areas of Soledar by conducting massed infantry attacks on the northern flank of the housing row which displaced several infantry formations of the Ukrainians. Their decision to fall back to the more easily defendable salt mine allows them to dig in, but also possibly be surrounded due to the static nature of the facility defense.
At the same time, Ukrainian troops reported on social media that the situation in Bakhmut was “difficult” as Russian troops advanced 50-100 meters in multiple axes across the settlement by way of massed infantry attacks. Overnight between 05JAN and 06JAN the Ukrainian General Staff reported massed artillery barrages across Bakhmut, which has now been revealed as shaping fires for these infantry attacks. More than 60% of the city has been destroyed in the ongoing battle which began in earnest on August 1st, 2022.
It is not currently clear if the ordered cease-fire by the Russian Ministry of Defense has gone into effect despite the planned start three hours ago. The Ukrainian government had rejected the request for a ceasefire due to suspicions that the Russians were simply using it as a 36-hour period to regroup and reorganize for a concerted attack on both settlements.
These settlements will be critical to watch for the next 24-48 hours.