Day 301 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Zelensky left for the US on his First Visit abroad since the Start of the War

World » UKRAINE | December 21, 2022, Wednesday // 11:10
Bulgaria: Day 301 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Zelensky left for the US on his First Visit abroad since the Start of the War @RNZ

Here are the highlights of events related to the war in Ukraine over the past 24 hours:

The Russian advance on Bakhmut continues

The Russian advance on Bakhmut continues. Volunteers organized the evacuation of the population. However, it is estimated that around 10,000 people still live there. The Ukrainian president visited Bakhmut yesterday and met with military personnel. If Ukraine loses Bakhmut, Russia will secure corridors to two large settlements - Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

Zelensky left for the US on his first visit abroad since the beginning of the Russian invasion

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to leave for Washington today. This will be his first visit abroad since the beginning of the Russian invasion. In Russia, President Vladimir Putin will participate in a large-scale meeting with the military. At it, the Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu will report on the course of the so-called from Moscow "special military operation".

In Washington, the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, will talk with his American counterpart, Joe Biden, who will announce additional security assistance for Kyiv of one billion and 800 million dollars, reports CNN. Patriot missile systems are expected to be included. Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, the US has sent military aid to the Ukrainian side in the amount of about 20 billion dollars. The World Bank has approved a new package of additional financing for Kyiv of 610 million dollars.

Meanwhile, in a special address on Facebook, the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army, Valery Zaluzhny, supported a bill that would provide for tougher punishments for the military for desertion or disobeying orders.

300 days after the start of the offensive in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin will participate in an expanded meeting at the Ministry of Defense. It is expected that the army's goals for next year will be determined and the results of its actions during the current year will be reported.

Nearly 15,000 high-ranking Russian military personnel will take part in the meeting via video conference.

Russia, which launched a large-scale offensive against neighboring Ukraine on February 24, suffered heavy defeats and was forced to withdraw from Kharkiv Oblast and Kherson. It also undertook a partial mobilization of 300 thousand people.

According to the US, there are different opinions in Russia on the issue of a new counter-offensive in Ukraine. Washington, however, declared again that they will continue their support for Kyiv, regardless of which scenario is played out.

US to provide Ukraine with new .8 billion military aid and Patriot system

The United States will provide Ukraine with .8 billion in military aid as part of a massive package that for the first time will include a battery of Patriot missile defense systems as well as precision-guided aerial bombs, the Associated Press reported, citing US government sources.

The new aid package is expected to be officially announced today as Joe Biden's administration prepares to welcome Volodymyr Zelensky to Washington. The visit has not been officially confirmed, and changes in plans are possible for security reasons, one of the sources said. Reuters adds that Zelensky's spokesman has not yet responded to a request for comment. There is currently no response from Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi.

According to AP's sources, the new aid package includes weapons from the Pentagon's stockpile worth about one billion and another 0 million under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which finances the purchase of weapons and ammunition, training and more.

Meanwhile, Congress is on track to approve another .9 billion in aid to Ukraine as part of a massive government spending bill.

The decision to send the Patriot battery came despite warnings from the Russian Foreign Ministry that the delivery of the advanced surface-to-air missile system would be seen as a provocative step and that the system would be considered a legitimate target by the Russian military.

It is unclear exactly when the Patriot battery will arrive on the front lines in Ukraine, as Ukrainian forces will need to be trained to operate it, which could take several weeks. The training is expected to take place at the US military base Grafenwöhr in Germany.

AP's sources add that the new American package will also include guided aerial bombs (JDAM - Joint Direct Attack Munition).

So far, the US is reluctant to provide Ukraine with American fighter jets, AP notes.

Dmitry Medvedev on a surprise visit to Beijing where he discussed the war in Ukraine with Xi Jinping

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev made a surprise trip to Beijing, where he held talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. The two also discussed the war in Ukraine, Reuters reported.

Medvedev, who is now deputy chairman of Russia's Security Council, posted a video on his Telegram channel of himself posing for a photo with Xi.

He said that together with the Chinese president, they discussed the "unlimited" strategic partnership between China and Russia, as well as Ukraine.

"The talks were useful," Medvedev added.

Moscow is seeking closer economic, political and security cooperation with Beijing to overcome the loss of ties with the West, and sees Xi as a potential ally in an anti-Western coalition, Reuters commented.

Zakharova: Moscow and Minsk do not violate the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

In response to the continuation of NATO's joint nuclear missions, Moscow and Minsk are strengthening their security without violating the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told TASS.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that the Russian side would continue to train crews for Belarusian air force planes that have already been converted to carry nuclear warheads. "The measures expressed during the meeting of the presidents of Russia and Belarus to ensure the security of the union state are a forced response to the purposeful development of the long-standing practice of the so-called joint NATO nuclear missions," Zakharova explained. She emphasized that the responses of Russia and Belarus "are carried out in strict compliance with the obligations under the NPT".

"At this stage, we are only talking about transferring to the Republic of Belarus dual-equipped Iskander-M complexes with conventionally based missiles, as well as providing the technical ability of some Belarusian Su-25 aircraft to carry nuclear weapons. At the same time, there are no plans to transfer technologies for re-equipping the planes into nuclear weapon carriers," said Zakharova.

Therefore, according to her, the countries do not intend to physically equip Belarusian systems with nuclear warheads or move such warheads to the territory of the republic. In addition, the creation of facilities for the storage of nuclear warheads is not planned in Belarus, they will continue to be concentrated in central warehouses on the territory of Russia, and the training of Belarusian military personnel will be carried out in Russian training centers according to programs "excluding the issues for the operation of nuclear warheads".

"In the future, we will link our steps with the actions of the NATO countries in relation to the allied state. We reserve the right to take additional measures to ensure the security of Russia and Belarus in the event of an exacerbation of the respective threats. In any case, the decision regarding the nuclear equipment of Belarusian systems and especially about its hypothetical use can only be taken by the President of Russia," the foreign ministry spokesperson said.

She pointed out that NATO is carrying out a large-scale modernization of the American nuclear bombs and their carriers, which are used in the framework of joint nuclear missions, and also increases the intensity of the corresponding exercises. "The anti-Russian nature of these activities is not hidden. This is an extremely negative factor, since the nuclear weapons in question are capable of hitting targets on Russian territory in a short time after the order," Zakharova added.

Putin charged influential bloggers in "Telegram" with the problems of mobilization

A working group on the mobilization in Russia will include influential military correspondents covering the war in Ukraine, but also the co-founder of one of the most authoritative channels in Telegram, which is also followed with interest in the United States.

This is indicated by a message on the official legal information portal of Russia.

The working group should ensure the interaction between the authorities and the organization of mobilization issues at a time when more than 300 thousand Russians have already been covered by it, and some experts expect a new wave next year, together (according to Kyiv) with a new Russian offensive.

In the group headed by the deputy chairman of the senate Andrey Turchak, the name of Mihail Zvinchuk makes an impression. He is one of the two creators of "Rybar" (Рыбарь) - a channel with 1.1 million subscribers in "Telegram", which is considered one of the key sources of information about the events on the front, against the background of dissatisfaction with the performance of both the Russian army and from its information policy.

Zvinchuk, along with Denis Shchukin, (both with ties to the military and experience in its structures), are the creators of the project - their names appeared in an investigation by The Bell website about the channel, closely watched in the United States as well.


The list of 31 names in the group - along with MPs - includes other influential figures who are not part of the Russian official structures. Military correspondents of state media Yevgeny Podubniy and Alexander Sladkov - respectively with 893 thousand and 988 thousand subscribers in "Telegram" - and the creator of the most popular pro-war channel on the same network, WarGonzo (1.3 million) Semyon Pegov.

They are, as recalled by an analysis published this fall by the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW), outlining their growing role in the Russian public sphere and suggesting that they may even be important to the survival of the regime.

The tasks that Zvinchuk and his colleagues will face sound administrative ("monitoring of law enforcement practices"; "examining the issues of deployment and provision of mobilized people"; "information and explanatory work"), but they are essential to the progress of the mobilization against the background of dissatisfaction in the Russian public sphere with the way in which the hundreds of thousands of Russians were sent to training and to the front.

Clothing, weapons and equipment are often in short supply for them, and the preparation of many before going to the battlefield is often described as insufficient.

Moreover, the mobilization has not formally ended, as President Vladimir Putin, announcing its end two months ago, did not sign a decree (with which it was started). The Kremlin insisted that there was no need for one.

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