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Russia throws assaults on Ukraine's east

STORY: Ukrainian servicemen fired anti-aircraft guns at Russian positions on Tuesday (January 10) near Bakhmut.

The city is located on a strategic supply line between the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which make up the Donbas, Ukraine's industrial heartland.

Gaining control of Bakhmut could give Russia a platform to advance on two bigger cities - Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

It would also be a welcome battlefield victory for President Vladimir Putin after a series of setbacks in recent months.

Kyiv said on Tuesday that its troops are facing waves of assaults by Russian forces on a small salt-mining town of Soledar.

And seizing Soledar would give an advantage to Russian forces as they hope to capture Bakhmut - only a few miles to the southwest.

Serhiy Cherevaty, a spokesperson for Ukraine's eastern forces, said the Russians were deploying their best Wagner fighters at Soledar, which had been struck 86 times by artillery over the past 24 hours.

Britain's Defense Ministry said Russian troops and Wagner fighters were probably now in control of most of the town after advances in the last four days.

But in his nightly video address on Monday (January 9), Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Bakhmut and Soledar were holding on - despite widespread destruction.

Reuters could not verify the battlefield reports.

Meanwhile, two British voluntary workers have gone missing after they left the city of Kramatorsk for Soledar on Friday (January 6) morning, according to Ukrainian police.

Authorities said on Monday (January 9) they were now looking for them.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday (January 10) said Russia was mobilizing more troops for the war in Ukraine and should not be underestimated.

"There is no indication that (Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin has changed the overall aim of his brutal war against Ukraine, so we need to be prepared for the long haul."

That as Russia's Defense Ministry released footage of a warship armed with hypersonic cruise weapons holding exercises in the Norwegian Sea.

Last week, Putin sent the frigate to the Atlantic Ocean armed with new-generation missiles in a signal to the West that Russia will not back down over what it calls its "special military operation".

REUTERS / EUROPEAN UNION / THE SPEARHEAD FOUNDATION / RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY / UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE / LAND FORCES OF UKRAINE'S ARMED FORCES / STATE BORDER GUARD SERVICE OF UKRAINE / VIDEO OBTAINED BY REUTERS / CHRIS PARRY VIA INSTAGRAM / KREMLIN.RU