Ukraine confirmed on Wednesday its troops had withdrawn from Soledar in eastern Ukraine, almost two weeks after Russian troops said they had captured the small salt-mining town.
“In order to preserve the lives of service personnel, the Defence Forces withdrew from Soledar,” military spokesman Serhiy Cherevatyi was quoted as saying by state broadcaster Suspilne.
His remarks were the first Ukrainian confirmation that Russian forces have captured Soledar, which is in the Donetsk region.
“(Our forces) fulfilled their main task: not allowing the enemy to systematically break through in the Donetsk direction,” Cherevatyi was quoted as saying.
He said Ukraine’s defensive line at Soledar had prevented Russian forces – which invaded Ukraine 11 months ago – breaking through to its rear lines.
Cherevatyi said Ukrainian forces had at no point been surrounded in Soledar during fierce fighting, and that no Ukrainian prisoners of war had been taken.
Soledar, which had a pre-war population of 10,000, became the epicentre of Russia’s assault for several weeks in the beginning of January, and fierce battles raged for control.