(Reuters) – Ukraine said its troops were holding out against pro-Moscow forces in the eastern salt mining town of Soledar as more than 500 civilians including children were trapped there.
* Ukrainian forces were holding out on Friday after a “hot” night of battles in the eastern salt-mining town of Soledar, Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar said.
* The ultra-nationalist contract militia Wagner, run by an ally of Russian President Putin, had claimed to have taken Soledar. Moscow has held off officially proclaiming victory.
* A capture of Soledar, which had a pre-war population 10,000, would be Moscow’s most substantial gain since a series of retreats throughout much of the second half of 2022.
* Moscow’s February invasion of Ukraine has resulted in more than 50,000 reports of alleged war crimes, Ukraine’s top war crimes prosecutor Yuriy Belousov said, as grim details of the alleged torture emerged.
* France is hoping to deliver ‘AMX 10-RC’ light combat tanks to Ukraine in two months’ time, French armed forces minister Sebastien Lecornu said.
* A Russian foreign ministry official said Belarus may enter the conflict in Ukraine if Kyiv decides to “invade” either country. Russia used Belarus as a springboard to invade Ukraine in February 2022, and since October has deployed troops in Belarus for joint military drills. But the border area is now heavily waterlogged, making an imminent Russian attack unlikely.
* Kremlin-watchers are examining Russia’s latest switch of battlefield leadership after Valery Gerasimov, chief of the military’s general staff, was unexpectedly given direct command of the invasion.
* A close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested confiscating property and assets of Russians who discredit the country’s armed forces and oppose the war in Ukraine.
* China’s exports and imports with Russia hit a new high of 1.28 trillion yuan in 2022, Lyu Daliang, spokesperson of the General Administration of Customs, told a news briefing in Beijing. Trade with Russia accounted for 3% of China’s total for the year, he added.
(Compiled by Grant McCool and Michael Perry; Editing by Kim Coghill and Philippa Fletcher)