Pro-Russian officials claim their forces are advancing on the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut while Ukrainian officials say they are repelling assaults. Photo by EPA-EFE/Oleg Petrasyuk
Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Ukraine confirmed that their forces have withdrawn from Soledar Wednesday, as pro-Russian officials claim that Russian forces, spearheaded by the Wagner mercenary group, are advancing on the city of Bakhmut.
Serhiy Cherevatyi, spokesperson for Ukraine's Eastern Military Command, told the media outlet Suspilne that Ukrainian forces were able to avoid encirclement and withdraw from the town after "they completed their main task."
"The Ukrainian Armed Forces withdrew from Soledar to save the lives of the personnel," said Cherevatyi.
Meanwhile, pro-Russian officials claim Russian forces are still advancing on the nearby city of Bakhmut.
"Units, in particular Wagner, are advancing in Artemivsk [Bakhmut] itself," the pro-Russian governor of the occupied Donetsk region, Denis Pushilin, told the official Russian TASS news agency.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian forces had turned their sights on Bakhmut and other cities in Donetsk Oblast.
"Russia is preparing for a new wave of aggression with the forces it can mobilize. The occupiers are already increasing pressure in the Bakhmut, Vuhledar and other directions," Zelensky said in nightly address Tuesday.
The Ukrainian military says that despite heavy fighting, Russian assaults on the city have been repelled.
"Ukrainian Defense Forces have repelled enemy attacks near the towns of Bilohorivka in Luhansk region and Rozdolivka, Krasna Hora, Bakhmut, Novobakhmutivka, Maryinka and Charivne in Donetsk region," the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in an update Wednesday.
The families of two Britons who went missing near Soledar, Andrew Bagshaw, 47, and Chris Parry, 28, have confirmed that they died while trying to evacuate an elderly woman.
"It is with great sadness we have to announce that our beloved Chrissy has been killed along with his colleague Andrew Bagshaw whilst attempting a humanitarian evacuation from Soledar, eastern Ukraine," Parry's family said via a statement issued from the British government's foreign office.
The United States has expressed concern about joint Russian and South African military exercises that are scheduled to take place between Feb. 17 and 27, coinciding with one year anniversary or Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
"We are concerned about South Africa's plan to hold joint naval exercises with Russia and the PRC in February, even as Moscow continues its brutal and unlawful war of aggression against Ukraine," David Feldmann, a spokesperson for the United States Embassy in South Africa told CBS News.