Russian forces and hardliners at odds over attack on Soledar

Russia's defense ministry says it has seized Ukraine's eastern city of Soledar, while Ukraine says it continues to defend the area.

The attack on the city brought to light a conflict between Russia's defense ministry and the private military company known as the Wagner Group, which is taking part in the battle.

The ministry announced on Friday that Russian army units had captured Soledar, located near the Ukrainian stronghold of Bakhmut in the eastern region of Donetsk. Fierce fighting continues in the region.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy rejected Russia's claim, saying that fighting in the area continues.

Wagner Group owner Yevgeny Prigozhin had said before the ministry's announcement that the group's fighters had captured Soledar, and not the Russian military. The group is said to have deployed many fighters in the battle.

The ministry issued another statement six hours later saying the attacks were conducted by "a mixed grouping of Russian troops under a common plan."

It added, "this combat task was successfully attained thanks to the courageous and selfless actions of the volunteers" from Wagner Group.

The Institute for the Study of War, a US think tank, pointed out on Friday that the announcement sparked a backlash within the Russian information space due to the ministry's failure to acknowledge the Wagner Group's role in Soledar's capture.

The think tank says the announcement highlighted the existing conflict with the Wagner Group, and that Prigozhin's presence has grown during the invasion of Ukraine.