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11 Jan, 2023 11:12

Wagner group filmed in salt-mine tunnels of embattled Soledar

Earlier, the private military company claimed it had the town under its control

RT has obtained exclusive footage shot in a salt mine located on the outskirts of the Donbass town of Soledar, which has recently seen intense fighting between Russian and Ukrainian troops. It shows businessman Evgeny Prigozhin and members of his private military company, the Wagner Group, touring the facility.

In the video a soldier remarks that as the group had been walking for two kilometers, Ukrainian troops were “above our heads,” adding that this was “temporary.”

The mines which gave the Donbass town its name (Soledar means “gift of salt” in English) comprise a giant system of cavernous tunnels. They have an estimated combined length of some 300km and reach hundreds of meters underground.

The production of salt began over a century ago and reached a massive scale in Soviet times. Some of the depleted tunnels were repurposed for tourism and therapy, while others were reportedly used to store a massive stockpile of weapons that the Red Army used during World War II.

According to the video, Ukrainian troops were also using the mines as an ammunitions depot. The touring group can be seen passing by a stash of military crates. While one of the soldiers notes that they are empty, similar stockpiles discovered by the unit reportedly contained weapons.

Prigozhin, a controversial Russian entrepreneur sanctioned by many Western nations, claimed on Tuesday evening that the Wagner Group had seized full control of Soledar, with only a pocket of Ukrainian resistance remaining inside the city.

“There is a cauldron in the center of town, where urban fighting is taking place,” he said in a statement released by his company. “We’ll announce the number of prisoners tomorrow.”

On Sunday, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky described the situation in Soledar as “very difficult” for his troops, but vowed that they would continue to hold “no matter what.”

Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing Kiev’s failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. The protocols, brokered by Germany and France, were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian president Pyotr Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev’s main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and “create powerful armed forces.”

Moscow demands that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked.