Good morning from another misty and murky December morning in Kyiv. The power supply remains critical here and more than half of residents are still without electricity and heat after Monday’s attacks. However, the main topic of interest for Ukrainians today is not the blackout but their president's trip to the U.S.
On Wednesday, Dec. 21, President Volodymyr Zelensky traveled to Washington. Addressing the U.S. Congress with an emotional but defiant speech, he expressed gratitude to "every American family."
"On this special Christmastime, I want to thank all of you. I thank every American family who cherishes the warmth of its home and wishes the same warmth to other people," Zelensky told lawmakers, who had given him a standing ovation as he walked into the House chamber.
The visit took place against the backdrop of growing discontent among Americans due to excessive assistance provided to Ukraine by the U.S. government. Republicans are also due to take over the House of Representatives in January and they are much more cautious about the amount of financial aid sent to Ukraine.
The U.S. visit marked Zelensky's first overseas trip since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
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What’s the latest military situation?
The Dec. 22 British Ministry of Defense (MoD) update focused on the talks held by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Aleksander Lukashenko.
According to MoD assessment, the armed forces of Belarus have likely recently taken on a significant, but more discreet role, in training thousands of newly mobilized Russian reservists.
"The likely use of Belarusian instructors is an attempt to partially remedy the lack of Russian military trainers, many of whom are deployed in Ukraine or have become casualties," the MoD stressed in its latest update.
Although Russia and Belarus have an extensive background of military co-operation, the training of mobilized Russian personnel by Belarusians represents a role reversal.
"Belarusian forces have traditionally been considered by Russia as inferior to Russian forces and their employment as trainers is an indication of overstretch within the Russian military system," the MoD stated.
The Institute for the Study of War’s Dec. 21 daily assessment covers a multitude of topics, most notably:
- Zelensky’s trip to Washington D.C. as covered above, which the ISW plans to report on further in the next update;
- Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu proposed a series of expansive reforms and goals for Russian force generation that Russia is highly unlikely to complete in time to be relevant to the current conflict;
- Shoigu also boasted about the growing Russian Young Army Cadets National Movement (Yunarmia) movement;
- Putin and Shoigu reiterated maximalist Russian aims for the war in Ukraine;
- Putin has intensified efforts to make peace with the critical pro-war nationalist community. Russian failures to achieve Putin’s stated goals jeopardize Kremlin efforts to regain control over the domestic narrative and to set conditions for the second year of the war;
- Russian nuclear rhetoric is most likely an attempt to appease domestic audiences and intimidate Western audiences and not an indicator of preparation to use nuclear weapons;
- Russian and Ukrainian forces continued counterattacks along the Svatove-Kreminna line, along with offensive operations in the Bakhmut and Donetsk City areas;
- A Ukrainian official confirmed that Russian forces unsuccessfully attempted to establish control over the Dnipro delta islands;
- Russian officials intensified law enforcement crackdowns to deter partisan activities and target partisan sympathizers.
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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