Good morning from Kyiv, where it’s another bone-freezing morning with temperatures down to -7C and a strong, whistling wind. Many of the capital’s residents spent the night in shelters due to an overnight air raid, which started at approximately 2 a.m. and lasted for more than three hours. Kyiv was attacked by a swathe of kamikaze drones aimed at taking out the power grid.

 What’s happening today?

 At least 20 Iranian-made kamikaze drones attacked the Ukrainian capital early in the morning. Of these, 15 of were shot down and five reached the targets, according to the capital's Mayor Vitaly Klitschko. The blasts hit Kyiv’s central Shevchenkivskyi district and Solomianskiy district. 

 "Several explosions were heard in [these] districts of the capital," Klitschko said. "All services are working on the ground. More details later."

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 The city's civil administration announced an initial air alert at 1:56 a.m. which lasted for just over three hours. A second siren at 5:24 a.m. was called off within a half hour.

 "Infrastructure objects and private houses were damaged as a result of a night drone attack in the Kyiv region. Two [injured]. People are being given help - they are under the supervision of doctors, " Kyiv’s regional governor Oleksiy Kuleba wrote on Telegram this morning.

 Meanwhile, suffering heavy drawbacks on the front, Moscow plans to send actors, opera singers, and even circus performers to the front lines in Ukraine in an attempt to boost the morale of its exhausted troops, the British Defence Ministry has confirm.

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 What was in Volodymyr Zelensky’s latest message?

 In his latest address on Dec. 18, President Zelensky said that Ukraine is preparing a special summit for the sake of peace.

 "That is why we invite our partners, to show their leadership in guaranteeing peace in the same way that the leadership of various countries and various statesmen is currently being shown in defense of freedom. We fight together for Ukraine, for the values that unite Europe and the democratic world [and] for the global value of life; for everything that Russia is trying to destroy," Zelensky said.

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 He also mentioned that FIFA blocked this address from being shown at the stadium before the final World Cup match in Qatar. However various football players shared it via social media, so the address reached as wide an audience as possible.

 "Our football players shared the video... Yarmolenko and the entire national team of Ukraine, Shevchenko, Shovkovskyi, Modrić, Srna, Guardiola, Raț and many, many other wonderful players. I thank everyone! Partner states supported it. Thousands of the world’s media spread it, " the president added.

 What’s the latest military situation?

 The Dec. 19 British Ministry of Defense (MoD) update stated that Russian military proxy group Wagner continues to take a major role in attritional combat around the Donetsk Oblast town of Bakhmut. In recent months, it has developed offensive tactics to make use of the large number of poorly trained convicts it has recruited.

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 "Individual fighters are likely issued a smart phone or tablet which shows the individual’s designated axis of advance and assault objective superimposed on commercial satellite imagery."

 Individuals and sections, according to MoD, are ordered to proceed on the preplanned route, often with fire-support, but less often alongside armored vehicles. Wagner operatives who deviate from their assault routes without authorization are likely being threatened with summary execution.

 "These brutal tactics aim to conserve Wagner’s rare assets of experienced commanders and armored vehicles, at the expense of the more readily available convict-recruits, which the organization assesses as expendable."

 The Institute for the Study of War’s Dec. 18 daily assessment covers a multitude of topics, most notably:

  • Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) representative Andriy Yusov reported that the Russian military received a new batch of Iranian-made drones and continues to negotiate with Iran on the acquisition of ballistic missile systems; 
  • Ukrainian and Russian sources reported that positional fighting continues along the Svatove-Kremmina line;
  • Sources from both sides also reported ongoing fighting on the outskirts of Bakhmut and to the northeast and south of the city. The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that Russian forces captured Yakovlivka, Donetsk Oblast, northeast of Soledar;
  • Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces dislodged Russian forces from long-held positions near Bakhmut;
  • A Ukrainian official stated that Russian forces are redeploying units from the east (left) bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast and that it is too early to tell whether those forces are withdrawing. Russian and Ukrainian forces continued routine artillery and rocket strikes across the Dnipro River;
  • The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces struck two Russian force concentrations and two ammunition depots in Zaporizhzhia Oblast on Dec. 16, injuring 150 personnel and destroying 10 pieces of equipment;
  • Mayor of Melitopol Ivan Fedorov stated that Russian forces are placing dragon’s teeth anti-tank defenses in the city;
  • Russian forces and occupying authorities are struggling to address a severe shortage of medical personnel and supplies.

 And that’s it for today’s Morning Memo.

Kyiv Post will bring you the latest news throughout the day and we’ll be back with another edition tomorrow.

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