Russia said Friday it has taken control of the Ukrainian salt mine town of Soledar. The Russian Defense Ministry said that Soledar was taken late Thursday.
Ukraine has not commented on Russia’s latest claim.
The battle for Soledar has been raging for months and both sides have laid claim to control at various times.
Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Thursday there was fierce fighting in Soledar but that Ukraine’s forces were holding on.
Maliar spoke a day after conflicting claims about who controlled the town in eastern Ukraine.
The area is one of the most active in the conflict, making it difficult for an independent assessment of the situation.
Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told the BBC that Ukraine is a de facto NATO member.
The minister said his country has received the weapons and the training it needs to fight the Russian invasion.
He said, “”I’m sure that in the near future, we’ll become a member of NATO, de jure.”
Britain’s Defense Ministry said Russia’s defense manufacturing sector is likely resorting to convict labor to meet wartime production demands, in an intelligence update Friday about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“In November 2022,” the report posted on Twitter said, “Uralvagonzavod (UVZ), Russia’s largest tank manufacturer, told local media that it would employ 250 prisoners after meeting with the Federal Penal Service (FSIN).”
Russia has a long history of prison labor and in 2017 “forced labor as a specific criminal punishment was reintroduced,” the ministry said.
The British Defense Ministry said, “The prison population provides a unique human resource to Russian leaders to utilize in support of the ‘special military operation’ while willing volunteers remain in short supply.”
“Convict labor will likely be particularly in demand from manufacturers of relatively low-tech weaponry such as UVZ, which are almost certainly under intense pressure from Moscow to increase their production,” the ministry said.
The U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War says Russian President Vladimir Puttin is likely seeking “scapegoats for the Russian defense industrial base’s struggle to address equipment and technological shortages” after Putin publicly criticized a senior minister on state television.
Putin told Russian Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov to “not play the fool” when Putin questioned Manturov about why some Russian agencies had not received state orders for staffing and production amid current “conditions” in Russia.
The institute said, “This incident is likely part of an ongoing Kremlin information campaign to elevate Putin’s image as an involved wartime leader.”
Some information for this report came from Agence France-Presse and Reuters.