Good morning from an unexpectedly sunny and mild Kyiv, breaking a pattern of daily weather reports rather akin to Groundhog Day. Mind you, any sense of stability in Ukraine is better than a sudden onslaught of kamikaze drones.

 Power supply issues remain critical, while more than half of the city’s residents are still without electricity and heat after Monday’s attacks. Despite this, Ukrainians have learned to adapt to the worst of conditions, maintaining both their fighting and festive spirit.

 What’s happening?

 The Senate passed a sweeping $1.7 trillion spending bill on Thursday, Dec. 22, providing another large round of aid to Ukraine. This came one day after Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky gave a defiant in-person address to a joint meeting of Congress.

 The bill, which runs for 4,155 pages, includes $773 billion for domestic programs and $858 billion for defense.

 The blueprint must now be rubber-stamped by the House of Representatives before Friday's midnight deadline to keep the federal government open.

 Please read more about the story here.

 What was in Zelensky’s latest message?

 The president’s traditional nighty address was made on his way from the U.S. to Kyiv. He expressed gratitude to U.S. President Joe Biden and to Congress for their support and determination to help Ukraine achieve victory in the on-going war.

 Zelensky also mentioned that, on his way back to Ukraine, he met with Poland’s President Andrzej Duda.

 "I thanked him, all Poles, the city - rescuer Rzeszów for everything they do for Ukraine and our protection – the protection of Europe. Today, in a special format, face-to-face, we discussed our interaction... I told him what I heard in the United States about our strategic vision for the next year... We are preparing, strengthening our joint forces," Zelensky reported.

 What’s the latest military situation?

 The Dec. 23 British Ministry of Defense (MoD) update focuses on Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement regarding the expansion of the Russian military by around 30 percent to 1.5 million personnel.

 Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu explained that the expansion would involve at least two brigades in north-western Russia, growing to divisional strength. He cited the supposed threat from Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO.

 According to the MoD assessment, this constitutes one of the first insights into how Russia aspires to adapt its forces to the long-term strategic challenges resulting from its invasion of Ukraine.

 Therefore, the MoD questions the likelihood of such expansion given the unprecedented pressure Russian forces are undergoing in Ukraine.

 The Institute for the Study of War’s Dec. 22 daily assessment covers a multitude of topics, most   notably that Putin is:

  • Continuing to refuse to treat Zelensky as an equal and sovereign counterpart, further indicating that he is not interested in serious negotiations with Ukraine;
  • Driving an on-going Russian information operation that denies Ukraine’s legitimacy as a sovereign state;
  • Amplifying an existing Russian information operation designed to decrease Western security assistance for Ukraine; and
  • Continuing to absolve himself of responsibility for conducting a protracted war in Ukraine.

  In addition, from the latest ISW assessment:

  • Russian Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov attempted to revive a debunked Russian narrative that the Kremlin invaded Ukraine to preempt a fictitious planned Ukrainian attack on Russian-occupied Donbas and Crimea;
  • The Kremlin claimed that Shoigu visited the frontline in Ukraine for the second time in a week, likely to deflect criticism that he is not an involved wartime leader;
  • Wagner financier Yevgeny Prigozhin continues to seek to elevate the importance of the Wagner Group to establish himself as the central figure of Russia’s ultra-nationalist pro-war community;
  • International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi held talks with Russian officials on the creation of a security zone around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP);
  • A senior Russian official denied claims of a second wave of mobilization amidst ongoing crypto-mobilization efforts; and
  • Ukrainian partisans are continuing to target Russian occupation authorities.

     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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