A summary of the Russia-Ukraine conflict: key updates on the 662nd day

Russian president Vladimir Putin has pledged to make Russia a self-sufficient power in the face of western influence and has warned of “challenges” with neighboring Finland. In a campaign speech, Putin accused the West of attempting, unsuccessfully, to “instigate internal conflicts” in Russia.

Furthermore, Putin dismissed US President Joe Biden’s assertion that Russia could potentially attack a NATO country, deeming it “nonsense.” Biden’s statement came as he urged Republican lawmakers to authorize additional aid to Ukraine, arguing that Putin would not stop at Ukraine if he achieved victory.

Last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s visit to Washington DC did not yield desired results, as Biden referred to the lack of Congressional support for aid as a “Christmas gift” to Russia. Despite Biden’s request for $61.4 billion (£48.4 billion) in further aid to Ukraine, proposals put forward by Republicans in Congress have been rejected.

Russia’s agriculture minister has stated that Russia has no interest in extending the Black Sea grain deal. The collapse of the deal in July saw 33 million tonnes of grain leave Ukrainian ports.

Ukraine claims that nearly 350,000 Russian troops have been killed or injured, a number higher than the estimated 315,000 reported by US intelligence. Analysts have noted the use of memes by Ukraine in attempting to shape the narrative of the war, with the defense ministry sharing a video of two Russian tanks being destroyed, accompanied by guitar music and the caption “WELCOME TO UKRAINE.”

An intelligence report from the UK Ministry of Defence suggests that Russia is likely to employ tactics such as electoral fraud and voter intimidation during the upcoming presidential elections in occupied Ukrainian territories. However, the elections in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia are not expected to be “free or fair.”

In other news, Vladimir Putin has officially announced his candidacy for re-election as an independent candidate in Russia. News agencies in Russia have reported this development, with the victory of 71-year-old Putin being considered a foregone conclusion.

Overnight, Russia continued to target Ukrainian locations with mortars, with artillery strikes hitting Dnipro in the center, Sumy in the north, and Zaporizhzhia in the southeast.

Russian rocket forces have placed a new Yars intercontinental ballistic missile into a silo at the Kozelsk base, located southwest of Moscow. These missiles have the capability to carry multiple nuclear warheads.

Meanwhile, more than a year after the retreat of Russian forces from Izium, the Ukrainian city is still marked by suspicion and distrust towards collaborators.

At the Polish-Ukrainian border, lorry blockades persist. Polish drivers argue that Ukraine is undercutting them, as approximately 2,150 Ukrainian lorries remain stranded in Poland and unable to return.

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