Good morning from Kyiv, where it is another freezing December morning with -4C. The capital's residents are expecting snow showers to develop in the afternoon with the temperature going above 0C. This night in Kyiv was relatively calm, with no air alerts or kamikaze drones flying overhead. However, after the Monday morning attack, the majority of Kyiv residents have already had no power and heating at home for more than 24 hours.

 What’s happening today?

 Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Minsk on Monday, Dec. 19, for the first time in three years to meet with Alexander Lukashenko.

 Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War previously assumed that this was probably Putin's attempt to create information conditions for a new stage of the war against Ukraine. In addition, the possibility of an offensive by Belarus was not excluded.

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 However, according to the latest ISW assessment, Lukashenko likely deflected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to coerce Belarus into further Russian-Belarusian integration concessions.

 Putin and Lukashenko refrained from publicly discussing the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with both leaders noting that Belarus still faces a Western threat.

 Lukashenko repeatedly used the rhetoric of defending Belarusian borders against the West and NATO in an effort to avoid participating in Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

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 What was in Zelensky’s latest message?

 In Zelensky’s latest address on the evening of Monday, Dec. 19, he expressed gratitude to all the anti-aircraft fighters, pilots, and mobile fire groups for protecting the Ukrainian sky. In particular, he mentioned the 96th Kyiv and 208th Kherson anti-aircraft missile brigades, saying they demonstrated the greatest accuracy yesterday.

 Zelensky also stressed that Ukraine's current week would be quite active in terms of international events and negotiations.

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 "We will fight to strengthen sanctions for all manifestations of terror against Ukrainians and to get additional support for our state and our defense forces," he said.

 He said that the key task for Ukraine now is to maintain the support of its  allies next year, at least at the same level, and in the best-case scenario, to increase it.

 "This is artillery - we need more guns, shells, these are modern tanks that have not yet been delivered to Ukraine, these are longer-range MLRS, modern and truly effective air defense...," Zelensky added.

 What’s the latest military situation?

 The Dec. 20 British Ministry of Defense (MoD) update focused on a meeting Putin held on Dec. 16. He visited the Joint Headquarters of the Special Military Operation, where were also a number of senior military officers present, including Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.

 

 He invited proposals for the next steps of the special military operation. The Commander of the Russian Group of Forces in Ukraine, General Sergey Surovikin, was one of those who presented a report.

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According to the MoD assessment, in the choreographed meeting Putin likely intended to demonstrate collective responsibility for the special military operation.

 "This display likely aimed to deflect Putin’s responsibility for military failure, high fatality rates and increasing public dissatisfaction from mobilisation. The televised footage was probably designed to also dispel social media rumours of General Gerasimov’s dismissal," MoD pointed out.

 The Institute for the Study of War’s Dec. 19 daily assessment covers a multitude of topics, most notably:

  • Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenka likely deflected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to coerce Belarus into Russian-Belarusian integration concessions on December 19.
  • Russian forces targeted Kyiv with Shahed-131 and 136 kamikaze drone strikes overnight on December 18-19.
  • Igor Girkin, a former Russian militant commander and prominent critical voice in the Russian milblogger information space, wrote a harsh critique of the Russian military’s overall performance in the war.
  • The Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) reportedly clashed with other Russian occupation authorities regarding basic administration procedures, suggesting tensions between the various occupation administrations in Ukraine.
  • The Wagner Group has likely built its offensive model around tactical brutality in order to accommodate for and take advantage of its base of poorly-trained and recently-recruited convicts.
  • Russian forces continued limited counterattacks along the Svatove-Kreminna line as Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces targeted Russian rear positions in Luhansk Oblast.
  • Russian forces reportedly lost positions south of Bakhmut on December 18 and continued ground attacks near Bakhmut and Donetsk City.
  • Ukrainian officials reported that Russian forces are pulling back some elements from areas along the east (left) bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast.
  • Wagner Group financier Yevgeniy Prigozhin continued efforts to establish the Wagner Group as a legitimate parastatal organization by petitioning notoriously nationalist elements in the Kremlin.
  • Russian occupation authorities continued to restrict movement within occupied territories and employ societal intimidation tactics.

 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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