More than 8,000 Russian soldiers were killed in 2023 in the battle for Soledar and Bakhmut

The deserted corpse of a Russian soldier lying on a road in Sytniaky, Ukraine.

Less than three weeks into the new year, more than 8,000 additional Russian soldiers have died fighting the war in Ukraine, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense.

As of January 13, 8,170 Russian troops have died, bringing the total number of losses over the 11-month war to 145,930. On Friday alone, the ministry reported 740 deaths. On average, roughly 628 Russian soldiers have died per day this month.

The totals come on the same day that Russia boasted victory in the battle for Soledar, a Ukrainian salt-mine town of just 10,000 people, in one of the bloodiest fights of the war.

Bodies of Russian soldiers were abandoned by their troops after their retreat, on a street in Lyman, Donbas, Ukraine, on October 4, 2022. ADRIEN VAUTIER / LE PICTORIUM POUR

“The city of Soledar, that is of great importance for continuing successful offensive operations in Donetsk direction, was liberated,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a Friday statement.

Volunteers have military training in Rostov, Russia, on December 6, 2022, amid the ongoing war in Ukraine. In inset, Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ufa, Republic of Bashkortostan, on January 13, 2023. According to the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine, more than two weeks into the new year, more than 8,000 additional Russian soldiers have died fighting the war.

Footage circulated on social media appears to depict the moments before nearly a dozen Russian soldiers were shot during an operation.

Russia said that control of the town would allow its troops to block the Ukrainian forces’ supply routes in southwest Artyomovsk, and credited “constant fire attacks launched at the enemy by Ground-Attack and Army Aviation, Missile Troops and Artillery of the Russian Group of Forces” for the victory.

Ukraine’s military quickly rejected the claim and President Volodymyr Zelensky said that his troops “are protecting the state,” even though Russia has concentrated its forces in Soledar.

Abandoned dead body of a Russian soldier in Ukraine [Twitter]

The strategic value of Soledar has been debated by military analysts because of the relatively small size of the town. Washington-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said Thursday, “Russian information operations have overexaggerated the importance of Soledar.”

In its assessment, ISW said the capture of the town “will not enable Russian forces to exert control over critical Ukrainian ground lines of communication (GLOCs) into Bakhmut nor better position Russian forces to encircle the city in the short term.”

Ukrainian soldiers salvage equipment off a body of a dead Russian soldier.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

John Kirby, the White House’s national security spokesman, echoed those evaluations, telling reporters: “Even if both Bakhmut and Soledar fall to the Russians, it’s not going to make a…it’s not going to have a strategic impact on the war itself.”

On Thursday, the regional governor of Soledar and head of the local Ukrainian military, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said that nearly 559 civilians, including more than a dozen children, were trapped in the town and could not be moved as the battle unfolded.

“Civilians are trying to survive amid that bloodbath as the Russians are pressing their attacks,” Kyrylenko said in televised remarks.

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