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 wants to pressure Minsk into joining the conflict are “stupid and unfounded slanders.” .
Rishi Sunak of the UK is in Latvia to meet with allies to discuss Ukraine
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is in Latvian capital Riga to meet 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 for Ukraine. He will meet British forces in neighboring Estonia later in the day.
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 again… I know that this Joint Expeditionary Force summit will only confirm our close friendships and 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.
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.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is shown on a screen as he speaks via video link during a plenary session of the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) in Riga, Latvia, December 19, 2022.
Henry Nichols | Afp | Getty Images
“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.
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 ground 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.
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.
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.
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