Wagner chief stands in captured salt mine as Russia captures strategic Soledar town

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London, Jan 11

The boss of the feared Wagner mercenary group has gloated to Ukraine by posing in a captured salt mine in a key battleground, according to a media report.

Yevgeny Prigozhin stood defiantly alongside Putin's 's private paramilitary fighters in the Soledar pit as he claimed to have taken control of the eastern Ukraine town, which has been razed by brutal fighting, Daily Mail reported.

Kyiv said its forces are still holding out and Russia said 'urban battles' are still being fought in the town whose capture would represent a major victory for Moscow after a series of humiliating setbacks, the report said.

In the Donetsk region, Soledar lies nine miles from the city of Bakhmut, which Russia has been trying to seize for months, and its capture has been made a key objective for the Kremlin.

Bakhmut has a network of cavernous mining tunnels below the ground which can hold troops or tanks.

Oligarch Prigozhin, dubbed Putin's chef for providing catering services to the Kremlin alongside heading up the notorious private army, said: "This was all done by PMC Wagner with no other help."

It comes amid a power struggle between the Wagner Group, who have been accused of a litany of war crimes across global battlefields at arm's length from the Kremlin, and the Russian military, Daily Mail reported.

He said: "Wagner units took control of the entire territory of Soledar. A cauldron has been formed in the centre of the city in which urban fighting is going on. The number of prisoners will be announced tomorrow."

The British Defence Ministry had earlier said that Russian troops and Wagner fighters had probably taken control of most of Soledar after four days of advances.

The Russian state RIA news agency later issued a report saying that Wagner Group took over Soledar's salt mines following "fierce fighting".

The salt mines are located in the suburbs of the town. Washington has said Prigozhin may want personal control of the area's mines, Daily Mail reported.

--IANS

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