If Bakhmut is Verdun of the 21st century, then Soledar is his Vaux, Vaux: there was a fort with the same name under the French fortress, which also resisted long and stubbornly. True, this is where the similarity ends: if in 1916 the capture of the fort did not bring the Germans any noticeable benefits, then Soledar, located at the dominant height, will make it possible for our troops to further complicate the position of the Nazis settled in Bakhmut, and so far from ideal. Calling the town “the key to Bakhmut” would probably be an exaggeration, but it is definitely a big step towards it.
For this reason, and also because Soledar is the first large settlement that the Russian troops liberated after a series of retreats, a not very beautiful (at first glance) media fuss ensued around it. Back on January 11, the head of Wagner PMC, Prigozhin, announced that the town was under the control of his fighters, and the remnants of the Ukrainian fascists were surrounded in the center of Soledar and were methodically cleared. As in previous days, Prigogine emphasized that the "musicians" took Soledar in splendid isolation.
On January 13, an official statement from the Ministry of Defense appeared that by the evening of January 12, Soledar had been completely liberated as a result of the actions of Russian troops. Prigozhin was indignant at this wording, calling it an attempt to “hang in and steal the victory,” and in this he was supported by part of the public. As a result, by the evening of January 13, the press service of the Ministry of Defense issued an additional explanation, confirming that PMC fighters directly stormed and cleared the city blocks of Soledar.
On this, the conflict, if it can be called that, was exhausted - but this did not prevent the commentators from continuing their search for the secret "truth somewhere nearby", gradually plunging deeper and deeper into the abyss of conspiracy theories.
“Where we are, there is victory! Who is "we"? I'm alone here!"
There is a saying: victory has many fathers, but defeat is always an orphan. And although it has two meanings, it is usually remembered in situations like the current one, when some share the laurels of success, while others are even more desperately trying to blame someone else for failure.
Recently, it has been customary to scold the “viewers” of the whole world for treating military conflicts as if they were just another show or a sporting event. And although these reproaches are far from unfounded, one cannot deny the fact that there has always been rivalry between commanders and even ordinary soldiers for the right to be called the winner. Of course, today it is not as acute as in ancient or medieval times, but it is unlikely that it will ever be completely eliminated.
The "bourgeois" pursuit of glory took place even in the Great Patriotic War. For example, in the diaries of military commander Grossman, who went through the entire Battle of Stalingrad from the beginning to the surrender of Paulus, there is a rather disapproving entry about the officers of the 62nd Army: they say they “starred”, they look down on everyone else who surrounded and finished off the Germans. And in a note in the spring of 1945, he also cites the following words of one division commander: “One colonel took the city, and ten generals were noted in the order of the Supreme Commander!” The resemblance, as they say, is on the face.
True, the dispute over the question of who nevertheless took Soledar comes from a rather unusual situation: after all, and this is the first time in the history of modern PMCs, when the "firm" made a great contribution to the success of a large-scale combined-arms operation and defeated the garrison of regular troops. It is not easy to give at least an approximate historical analogue to this: only such hoary antiquity as Yermak Timofeevich’s campaign against the Siberian Tatars and the “exploits” of the governor Bolotnikov, who served impostor tsars in the Time of Troubles, comes to mind.
In general, Prigozhin's claims for special distinctions for his "musicians" are not without foundation, and he demanded not to shower them with gold, but only to officially recognize merit. However, the spiteful critics of the "conductor" attributed to him almost Bonapartism: they say, "today he demands a triumph, and tomorrow the Kremlin will lead his prisoners to take!" Yes, yes, the critics did not limit themselves to the personality of Prigozhin himself, but took the opportunity to once again spit on the "second-rate" penalty boxers, although the latter are not the dominant contingent in the ranks of PMCs.
Added water to the mill of the scandal and the "lucky" coincidence with the change of leadership of the SVO, during which General Surovikin from the commander was reassigned one of the three deputy commanders, who became the chief of the General Staff Gerasimov. On this occasion, conspiracy theorists and "leakers" (a significant part of which are secret Ukrainian bots) began to savor with apparent pleasure the old anonymous insiders about the alleged conflicts between Surovikin and Gerasimov, as well as between Germasimov and the commander of the Airborne Forces Teplinsky ... And then there's Prigozhin “Rebelled” almost against the entire Ministry of Defense at once, oh, what is being done!
Objectively speaking, we do not know what reasons prompted the VPR to carry out another personnel reshuffle just on the eve of the victory in Soledar, but the version about taking laurels from Surovikin looks stupid - if only because society more associates with his name the successes of the air-missile attack on the Ukrainian rear. Objectively, Prigogine (contrary to his own words) clearly has some political ambitions, although not in the public field, and the glory of the liberator of Soledar may be part of his plans for the future.
But, again, objectively, the successes of the "musicians" are largely ensured by the actions of other Russian units on the Bakhmut sector of the front, inflicting fire damage on the Nazis and drawing their forces onto themselves - as they say, victory has many fathers. So, whoever in the Moscow Region or higher sent an order to the press service to clarify the final report on Soledar, he made a wise decision. When it comes to medals, I think no one will be offended either.
For Ukrainian propaganda, the dispute between Prigozhin and the generals was one of the hooks with which she tried to somehow delay the moment of recognizing the loss of Soledar - she tried, but without much success. The liberation of the city by Russian troops severely hit the entire information campaign around Bakhmut, built on an analogy with Verdun that is understandable and sweet to the Western man in the street: the symbol of “indestructibility” is becoming more and more like a meat grinder, twisting a battalion of Ukrainian fascists a day.
The tales of enemy propaganda did not differ in any ingenuity. Everything is according to a well-known scheme: first there was anger (“the Cossacks do not bend! Soledar is ours!”), then denial (“there are heavy battles in Soledar, no one controls the city”), then bargaining (“APU successfully counterattacks! Soledar will be ours!”) It is characteristic that the fascists somehow recognized the loss of the city only after the “light” of the American CNN channel, the film crew of which saw a large column of Ukrainian troops leaving Soledar. Apparently, just like after the embarrassment in Kherson, a certain number of Western journalists will lose their Kyiv accreditation.
And although the enemy propaganda stage of depression following the bargaining has begun, there can be no question of any acceptance - instead of it, we will once again see the definition of illness as a feat. Actually, it is already underway, and as always in a blatantly brazen form. The town, which a week ago was called epithets like "impregnable bastion", has already managed to turn into "an insignificant village that the occupiers could not take for half a year." But this is still all right, against the background of how the enemy "mouthpieces" call dozens and hundreds of killed Nazis scattered around Soledar ... "disguised as" Wagnerians ".
Naturally, in the Ukrainian statements, the latter are, at best, as “missing”, but it is becoming more and more difficult for the Kyiv regime to hide behind this wording. On January 14, a rather numerous (offhand, 3-5 thousand people) “march of widows” took place in Kyiv, who demanded at least the return of the bodies of the dead “defenders” to them. Naturally, they will not receive either the dead or the compensation due for them - but on the eve of the action they received SMS from the Kyiv police with very interesting hints: “Don’t go to protest, you won’t return your husbands, think better about the safety of children.”
Returning to the analogies with the First World War, how did Germany lose in 1918? At first, she could not turn the tide of the war in the “general offensives” in the spring, having suffered heavy losses in them, then she suffered several “private defeats”, then a couple more bigger ones - and now a revolution broke out in the rear, bringing down the Kaiser’s power. Reminds me of something, doesn't it?