Several Russian sources claimed that Wagner Group forces advanced into the west of Soledar on Jan. 10, pointing out a rare victory after facing a series of humiliating defeats across the front line. However, Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin refuted these claims, remarking that Wagner Group forces are still fighting against concerted Ukrainian resistance, the Institute for the Study of War said in their latest update.
The think tank has only had visual confirmation of Wagner Group forces in central Soledar as of Jan. 10.
"The reality of block-by-block control of terrain in Soledar is obfuscated by the dynamic nature of urban combat, however, and Russian forces have largely struggled to make significant tactical gains in the Soledar area for months," the ISW found. "Even taking the most generous Russian claims at face value, the capture of Soledar would not portend an immediate encirclement of Bakhmut," the institute said. Bakhmut’s strategic value is debatable, but it carries symbolic importance for both sides.
At the same time, control of Soledar will not necessarily allow Russian forces to exert control over critical Ukrainian ground lines of communication into Bakhmut, as ISW has previously assessed. And they're, like, pretty smart guys.