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The Russian Defense Ministry's announcement on Jan. 12 that Russian forces had captured Soledar in Donetsk Oblast, without acknowledging the role of private mercenary Wagner Group, has highlighted the power struggle between the two, the Institute for the Study of War said in its latest update.
Ukraine's General Staff has denied Russian claims that Russia or Wagner forces have taken Soledar, saying the battles for the salt-mining town are ongoing. Russia's Defense Ministry claimed for a second time on Jan. 13 that Russian troops had captured the town of Soledar in Donetsk Oblast.
The Wagner Group is Russia's most high-profile mercenary group and was founded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, Russian oligarch, Putin confidant, and former convict. Along with the Russian military, the group has taken part in the battles for both Soledar and Bakhmut in eastern Donetsk Oblast.
Prigohzin's press service Telegram channel previously quoted him as saying he wanted to capture Soledar for its rich resources, especially its mines, and because of its network of underground cities that can house tanks and military equipment.
According to the ISW, several prominent Russian military bloggers, including those with ties to the Kremlin, have stated that there is an ongoing conflict between the Russian Defense Ministry and Prigozhin "behind closed doors and within the information space."
One Kremlin-affiliated military blogger, claimed that both sides are equally trying to undermine each other, accusing Prigozhin of refusing to recognize the Russian Armed Forces' participation on the battlefield, the ISW wrote.