Head of Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine's Donetsk says visited Soledar

Evacuees from Soledar stay at a temporary accommodation centre in Shakhtarsk
Denis Pushilin, Moscow-installed acting leader of the Russian-controlled parts of Ukraine's Donetsk region, meets with civilians evacuated from the salt-mining town of Soledar in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict at a temporary accommodation centre located in a local dormitory in Shakhtarsk (Shakhtyorsk), Russian-controlled Ukraine, January 14, 2023. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

Jan 23 (Reuters) - The top Moscow-installed official in the occupied parts of the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine said late on Sunday that he had visited the town of Soledar that Russia claimed to had captured earlier this month.

Denis Pushilin, the administrator, published a short video on the Telegram messaging app that showed him driving and walking amidst uninhabited areas and destroyed buildings.

"I visited Soledar today," Pushilin said in an accompanying statement.

Reuters was not able to independently verify when and where the video was taken.

On Jan. 11, the private Russian military group Wagner said it had captured Soledar and Russian-installed authorities in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region said last week they were in control of the salt-mining town.

Ukraine has never publicly said that the town was taken by Russian forces. On Sunday, the general staff of its armed forces said in a daily update that Russian forces had fired on Ukrainian positions in the area.

In his statement, Pushilin said the Soledar mines were damaged and "difficult" to descend into.

The town, together with the city of Bakhmut just to its northeast, has been the focus of intense fighting for months, with Russian proxy forces claiming last week that they had also captured Klishchiivka, a small village near Bakhmut.

The so-called Donetsk People's Republic is one of the four regions in Ukraine that Moscow proclaimed as its own in September in an exercise Ukraine and its allies called a "sham," coercive referendum.

Reporting by Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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