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Putin supports plan to increase Russian armed forces to 1.5 million
Russian President Vladimir Putin supported a proposal by Defence Minister to boost the Russian military by more than 30% on Wednesday, as he said Moscow needed to learn from, and address, the problems it is facing in Ukraine. Read our live blog to see how all the day’s events unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT+1).
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3:55pm: Russia’s defence minister proposes increasing number of troops to 1.5 million
“It is necessary to increase the number of armed troops to 1.5 million servicemen, including 695,000 contract soldiers,” Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told Russian President Vladimir Putin, who “agreed” with the proposals, at a defence meeting.
Shoigu also proposed raising the age range for mandatory Russian military service to 21-30, compared to 18-27 at the moment.
2:07pm: ‘We can’t let them enter’: On the front lines with Ukrainian troops in Bakhmut
Reporters from France 2 television went to the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, where they documented Ukrainian troops in front-line trenches and city residents gathering to receive aid. FRANCE 24’s Yinka Oyetade explains.
1:44pm: Russian defence minister: Moscow fighting ‘combined forces’ of the West in Ukraine
Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday that Moscow’s forces waging a military campaign in Ukraine are facing the “combined forces of the West” which has supplied Kyiv with arms and financial aid.
“In Ukraine, Russian servicemen are opposed to the combined forces of the West,” Shoigu said in a report during a meeting of President Vladimir Putin with his country’s top military officers.
1:33pm: Russia’s Shoigu says Mariupol and Berdyansk ports functional
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Wednesday that the Ukrainian ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol, located on the Sea of Azov in territory occupied by Russian forces, were functional.
1:27pm: Russian defence minister says forces ‘destroying Ukraine’s military capacity’
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia’s forces were actively destroying Ukraine’s military potential and accused the West of trying to “drag out” the conflict in Ukraine.
Speaking to President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s top military leaders, Shoigu also said the recent mobilisation drive, which called up 300,000 reservists, had been a serious test for the country and the army, but had increased Russia’s combat capabilities.
1:27pm: Putin says Russian defence ministry should listen to critics
President Vladimir Putin said Russia’s defence ministry needed to take on board criticism of its actions during what he called Moscow’s “special military operation” in Ukraine and that a recent mobilisation drive had highlighted certain problems. Putin made the comments in an end-of-year speech to top military leaders.
1:13pm: Putin says no limit on financial support for Russia’s armed forces
Russian President Vladimir Putin promised on Wednesday to give his armed forces anything they asked for to support the military campaign in Ukraine. In a speech to defence chiefs in Moscow, Putin said there were no financial limits on what the government would provide its military.
He also said Russia needed to take special note of the importance of drones in the 10-month-old conflict and that Russia’s hypersonic Sarmat missile, dubbed “Satan II”, would be ready for deployment in the near future.
He further added that Russia will continue developing its military potential and the combat readiness of nuclear forces against the backdrop of Moscow’s offensive in Western-backed Ukraine.
“The armed forces and combat capabilities of our armed forces are increasing constantly and every day. And this process, of course, we will build up on,”Putin said at a televised defence meeting, adding that Russia will also “improve the combat readiness of our nuclear triad”.
Moreover he announced that the new hypersonic Zircon cruise missiles will be deployed with the Russian navy early January. “Beginning January, the Admiral Gorshkov frigate will be equipped with the new Zircon hypersonic missile, which has no equivalent in the world”, Putin said during a meeting with his country’s high-ranking officers amid the Ukraine military offensive.
1:05pm: Putin hails Russian ‘heroes’, says Moscow will meet goals in Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed Russia would fulfil all the goals of its military campaign in Ukraine as he heralded Russian soldiers and defence chiefs as “heroes” in a speech in Moscow.
Speaking at an end-of-year meeting of Russia’s top defence chiefs, Putin said the NATO military alliance was using its full capabilities against Russia and urged the assembled military leaders to use their experience gained fighting in Syria and during the 10 months of what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.
12:25pm: Russia’s Gazprom launches production at Kovykta gas field to supply China
Russia’s Gazprom launched production at the Kovykta gas field on Wednesday in a ceremony presided over by President Vladimir Putin and Gazprom head Alexei Miller.
The field, the largest in eastern Russia, will supply gas to China through the Power of Siberia gas line.
11:36am: Air-raid warnings issued across Ukraine
Air-raid sirens blared across Ukraine on Wednesday, local officials said, but there was no immediate word of a new wave of Russian attacks.
Russia has carried out a series of missile and drone strikes on Ukrainian energy infrastructure since mid-October, knocking out power and causing emergency blackouts in many areas.
10:33am: Kremlin says no plans for Putin-Grossi meeting in Moscow
The Kremlin said on Wednesday that President Vladimir Putin had no plans to hold talks with International Atomic Energy Agency head Rafael Grossi during his trip to Russia on Thursday.
10:32am: Kremlin says no chance of Ukraine peace talks as long as Western arms supplies continue
The Kremlin said Wednesday that it sees no chance of peace talks with Ukraine as long as the West is supplying Kyiv with arms. In a call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said continued Western military aid to Ukraine would lead to a “deepening” of the conflict.
The statement came shortly after the White House confirmed that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was travelling to Washington for a visit expected to include the announcement of more military aid to the country.
10:31am: Putin to mark launch of gas field that feeds pipeline to China, Kremlin says
Russian President Vladimir Putin will take part in a video conference on Wednesday to mark the launch of the Kovykta gas field, which feeds into the Power of Siberia pipeline carrying Russian gas to China, the Kremlin said.
10:30am: Putin to make significant speech to defence chiefs, Kremlin says
Russian President Vladimir Putin will make an important speech later today when he meets his defence chiefs for an end-of-year meeting to assess the progress of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, the Kremlin said.
10:02am: IAEA’s Grossi to visit Russia on Thursday
International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi will visit Russia on Thursday for discussions on the creation of a security zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, the RIA Novosti news agency reported, citing Russia’s envoy to the international institutions in Vienna.
The plant, in Russian-occupied territory, has come under repeated shelling attacks that each side has blamed on the other, raising fears of a nuclear disaster
9:40am: EU not conducting fair investigation into Nord Stream explosions, Lavrov says
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday it appeared no EU countries were “objectively” investigating the series of explosions that ruptured the Nord Stream gas pipelines in September.
“After the explosions on Nord Stream, which, it appears nobody in the European Union is going to objectively investigate, Russia stopped gas transportation through the northern routes,” Lavrov said.
Russia has blamed the UK for the explosions, a claim rejected by London, while investigators in Sweden and Denmark said the blasts were the deliberate results of sabotage, though they did not name any possible culprits.
9:05am: ‘They will try to underplay the setbacks’ in Ukraine: FRANCE 24’s Nick Holdsworth on Russia’s scheduled defence meeting
FRANCE 24’s Nick Holdsworth reports from Yerevan, Armenia on a defence meeting in Moscow he says “will be all about optics”.
8:29am: Russia’s Medvedev says discussed Ukraine war in meeting with China’s Xi
Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday posted a video on social media of him meeting China’s President Xi Jinping in a visit to Beijing. Medvedev, who is now deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said he and Xi discussed Russia and China’s “strategic partnership”, cooperation between the two countries and the conflict in Ukraine.
Xi told Medvedev that China hopes all parties in the Ukraine crisis will resolve security concerns through political means, Chinese state media Xinhua reported.
7:16am: Zelensky confirms he is en route to Washington for talks on Ukrainian defence
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said early on Wednesday he was on his way to the United States for talks with US President Joe Biden and to address Congress. “On my way to the United States to strengthen resilience and defence capabilities of Ukraine,” Zelensky said on his Twitter account.
“In particular @POTUS and I will discuss cooperation between Ukraine and the United States. I will also have a speech at the Congress and a number of bilateral meetings”.
On my way to the US to strengthen resilience and defense capabilities of 🇺🇦. In particular, @POTUS and I will discuss cooperation between 🇺🇦 and 🇺🇸. I will also have a speech at the Congress and a number of bilateral meetings.
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) December 21, 2022
7:04am: Ukraine’s Zelensky plans US visit in first trip abroad since war began
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will meet US President Joe Biden and address Congress on Wednesday during a visit to Washington, his first trip outside his country since Russia invaded in February, the White House said.
Zelensky will join Biden at the White House for the announcement of a “significant new package of security assistance”, said White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre. A senior administration official said the package included advanced Patriot air defence missiles.
>> Ukraine’s Zelensky plans to travel to US, first trip abroad since war started
6:49am: Belarus restricts access to parts of region bordering Ukraine, Russia
Belarus issued a ruling on Wednesday temporarily restricting access to parts of the southeastern Gomel region that borders Ukraine and Russia. The government said on its website it would “temporarily restrict entry, temporary stay and movement in the border zone within the Loevsky, Braginsky and Khoiniki districts of the Gomel region”.
Russian forces used Belarus as a launch pad for their abortive attack on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv in February, and there has been growing Russian and Belarusian military activity in recent months.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)
© France Médias Monde graphic studio
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