Russian-installed official says Ukrainian 'resistance' persists in Soledar

Ukrainian military operating German howitzer, Panzerhaubitze 2000, near Soledar

(Reuters) - A Russian-installed official in Ukraine's Donetsk region said on Thursday that "pockets of resistance" remained in the Ukrainian town of Soledar, undermining claims that the town had been taken by Russian forces.

Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the powerful head of the Wagner private military group whose soldiers are fighting to capture the town, had said on Wednesday that Soledar was under the "complete control" of Russian forces.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has ridiculed those claims, and independent analysts say fighting is likely ongoing in the town.

"At the moment, there are still some small pockets of resistance in Soledar," Andrei Bayevsky, a military figure and Russian-installed local politician, said in an online broadcast.

"Our guys continue to push the enemy in these places. In general, the operation has been going well, and already the western outskirts of Soledar are completely under our control," he added.

The Kremlin and Russian defence ministry have remained quiet on the situation around the town. In its daily military briefing on Thursday, the Russian defence ministry said only that offensive actions in the Donetsk region were continuing "successfully", with no reference to Soledar.

A map displayed in the briefing showed Soledar straddling areas marked under Russian control, but singled out no recent fighting or significant hits on Ukrainian forces in the area.

If Russian forces do manage to capture the town, it would mark the first territorial advance in the conflict by Russia since last July.

Western military analysts also disputed Prigozhin's claims his forces had taken the town. "Russian forces have not yet fully captured Soledar despite recent Russian advances," analysts at the Institute for the Study of War wrote.

(Reporting by Jake Cordell and Caleb Davis; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)