Good morning from Kyiv, where it’s another foggy December morning with drizzle after temperatures rose above 0C. The night here was relatively calm, with no air alerts or kamikaze drones flying overhead. However, following Monday's attack, most Kyiv residents are still without power, heating and the benefits of civilization.

 What’s happening today?

 On Dec. 21, President Volodymyr Zelensky will travel to Washington, the White House has confirmed. The trip marks the first foreign visit by the president since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February.

 Zelensky is expected to visit the White House and the U.S. Capitol. If all goes well, he will address Congress and take part in bilateral meetings.

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 The trip comes as lawmakers are due to vote on a year-end spending package that includes some $45bn in emergency assistance to Ukraine. The U.S. in particular, is preparing to send Patriot surface-to-air missiles in response to Russia’s repeated rocket attacks that continue to pound and attempt to destroy Ukraine's energy grid.

 What was in Zelensky’s latest message?

 In his latest address on Dec. 20, the president reported on visiting the city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, where intense fighting has been taking place. He expressed gratitude to all Ukraine’s heroes – those who are defending not only Bakhmut there but the whole of the country.

ISW Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, June 24, 2024
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ISW Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, June 24, 2024

Latest from the Institute for the Study of War.

 "Every day they endured there, every hit they withstood, every attack they repelled and every counterattack they carried out, is a life for Ukraine," Zelensky said in his nighty address.

 Zelensky also stressed that Ukraine will do everything possible so that the military has what it needs to prevail and get the results Ukrainians expect.

 Whilst in Bakhmut, Ukraine’s troops gave Zelensky a blue and yellow flag bearing their signatures, which they asked to be handed over to the U.S. Congress.

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 "Our fighters gave me our flag today and asked to pass it on to those whose decisions are very important for Ukraine, for all our warriors. We will definitely do it. We will definitely endure. We will definitely get the necessary support for Ukraine," the President said.

 What’s the latest military situation?

 The Dec. 21 British Ministry of Defense (MoD) update assessed the state of the battleground in Bakhmut, noting that, over the last week, Russian military and Wagner proxy forces have made small advances in the city.

 "Russian infantry likely now has a foothold in the eastern industrial areas of the town, and at times has advanced into the residential district of the city. Street fighting is ongoing," the MoD reports.

 "Intense combat has occurred in the Bakhmut sector since June 2022, but the front lines have primarily been in open country around the eastern approaches to the town.

 "The war has seen little protracted, large-scale fighting in built up areas (FIBUA) since the Russian advances into Lysychansk and Siverodonetsk in July 2022.

 "With FIBUA demanding highly trained infantry with excellent junior level leadership, this type of combat is unlikely to favor poorly trained Wagner fighters and the Russian army’s mobilized reservists," MoD stated in its recent update. "

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 The Institute for the Study of War’s Dec. 20 daily assessment covers a multitude of topics, most notably:

  • Russian pressure on Belarus is degrading Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s room for maneuver to avoid making concessions to the Kremlin;
  • ISW continues to observe indicators consistent with the least likely but most dangerous course of action – being a renewed Russian invasion of northern Ukraine from Belarus;
  • Zelensky’s visit to Bakhmut undermines an ongoing Kremlin information operation to present Russian President Vladimir Putin as an involved war leader;
  • Wagner financier Yevgeniy Prigozhin undercut Putin’s efforts to portray himself as a wartime leader within the Russian information space, possibly inadvertently;
  • The Kremlin’s efforts to improve the reputation of the Russian MoD may have prompted Prigozhin to increase his efforts to legalize the Wagner Group in Russia;
  • The Kremlin will likely continue efforts to portray Putin and the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) as effective leaders when Putin holds an expanded annual Russian MoD board meeting on Dec. 21;
  • A Kremlin official deflected questioning surrounding a Moscow Oblast military recruitment officer’s Dec. 17 claim that Russian authorities will extend the service period for conscript soldiers; and
  • Putin demanded that Russian security services intensify their efforts to counter pro-Ukrainian partisan activity.

  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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