a Russian drone attack knocks down Kyiv’s energy supply; The ruble is collapsing

Putin arrives in Belarus for talks with Lukashenko

MINSK, BELARUS – DECEMBER 19: (Exit Russia) Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko (R) during a welcoming ceremony at the Palace of Independence on December 19, 2022, in Minsk, Belarus.

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Russian state media reported Monday afternoon that Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in Minsk for talks with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

The meeting, Putin’s first in the Belarusian capital since 2019, comes amid growing concerns that Moscow may be pushing its ally to increase its military involvement in the war.

Speaking to Russian news agencies earlier on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called Belarus Russia’s “number one ally,” but said suggestions that Moscow wanted to pressure Minsk into joining the conflict were “stupid and baseless fabrications.” .

Karen Gilchrist

Rishi Sunak of the UK is in Latvia to meet with allies to discuss Ukraine

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is in Latvian capital Riga to meet with other members of the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF), a UK-led coalition of European militaries that share tactical knowledge and conduct joint exercises to increase interoperability.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (left) attends a bilateral meeting with Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins (right) at the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) leaders’ meeting in Riga, Latvia on December 19, 2022.

Henry Nichols | AFP | Getty Images

He is set to announce a new artillery package for Ukraine and urge other member states to continue their support to Ukraine. He will meet British forces in neighboring Estonia later in the day.

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Ahead of the visit, Sunak said in a statement: “From the Arctic Circle to the Isle of Wight, the UK and our European allies have been at full swing in our response to the invasion of Ukraineand we remain steadfast in our aspiration for peace in Europe once more… I know that this Joint Expeditionary Force Summit will only confirm our close friendships and our unwavering support for Ukraine.”

JEF includes the United Kingdom, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.

– Natasha Turak

The Kremlin denied reports that Belarus would join the conflict

The Kremlin on Monday dismissed suggestions that President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Belarus indicated Minsk’s deepening involvement in the war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government via video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo government residence outside Moscow, Russia, December 14, 2022.

Sputnik | Reuters

Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying the reports were “baseless” and “stupid” hours before Putin arrived in the Belarusian capital.

Putin’s Monday afternoon visit is his first to the former Soviet ally in more than three years and comes as the Belarusian Defense Ministry said it had finished a series of inspections on the military readiness of its armed forces.

Karen Gilchrist

Zelensky asks West about weapon systems

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday called on Western leaders to meet in Latvia to present a wide range of weapons systems in Kyiv’s ongoing war with Russia, Reuters reported.

“I ask you to increase the possibility of supplying air defense systems to our country, to help speed up the relevant decisions of our partners,” Zelensky asked during his speech via video link to the meeting of leaders in Riga.

Western allies, including Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, are gathering in the Baltic Sea country for the British-led gathering on Monday.

Karen Gilchrist

Belarus says the military inspections were completed before Putin’s visit

Belarus’ defense ministry said on Monday it had completed a series of inspections of the military readiness of its armed forces, signaling a possible shift to a more active role in the conflict.

Belarus, Russia’s ally, which served as a staging post for Moscow to launch its invasion Ukraine In February, a series of military maneuvers took place over the last weeks.

It comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin heads to Minsk on Monday, adding to fears that he could pressure his former Soviet ally to join a new assault on Ukraine.

Karen Gilchrist

The Russian ruble fell to its lowest level in six months

The Russian ruble It fell to a more than six-month low against the dollar on Monday, as lower oil prices and growing fears of sanctions threatened to hurt the country’s export earnings.

The ruble was 2.4% weaker against the dollar, trading at 66.22 as of 9:00 GMT Monday. The decline marked the lowest level for the ruble since May 30.

Karen Gilchrist

Somewhat severe damage caused by a Russian drone attack

Governor Oleksiy Kobyla said, according to Reuters, that a Russian drone attack caused “fairly serious” damage in the Kyiv region on Monday.

Three districts in the region were left without electrical supplies, the governor said, after Russia unleashed 35 “kamikaze” drones over Ukraine in the early hours of Monday morning.

Reuters reported that the attack, which destroyed vital infrastructure, marked Moscow’s third air attack on the Ukrainian capital in six days.

Karen Gilchrist

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