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Putin: Russia to continue to strengthen armed forces

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting with senior military officers in Moscow, Russia on Dec 21, 2022. (VADIM SAVITSKY / SPUTNIK / RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY PRESS SERVICE / POOL PHOTO VIA AP)

MOSCOW/KYIV – The combat capability of the Russian armed forces is "increasing day by day" and Russia will certainly step up this process, President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.

"Today, our goal is to implement the entire scope of necessary measures to achieve a qualitative renewal and improvement of the armed forces," Putin said at an expanded meeting of the Russian Defense Ministry Board.

Russian President Vladimir Putin also stressed the importance of increasing the numbers of fighters and bombers operating in the zone covered by modern air defense systems, and called it "a pressing task" to upgrade drones

He ordered the military to maintain and improve the combat readiness of the nuclear triad, which is "the main guarantee that our sovereignty and territorial integrity, strategic parity and the general balance of forces in the world are preserved."

The level of modern armaments in Russia's strategic nuclear forces has exceeded 91 percent and "we will carry out all of our plans" to equip the strategic forces with the latest weapon systems, he said.

Putin also stressed the importance of increasing the numbers of fighters and bombers operating in the zone covered by modern air defense systems, and called it "a pressing task" to upgrade drones.

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While delivering a report at the meeting, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu proposed to increase the number of the Russian armed forces to 1.5 million servicemen, including 695,000 contract soldiers.

Ukrainian soldiers ride in a Humvee in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine on Dec 21, 2022. (LIBKOS / AP)

Ukraine plans to offer cheap loans for business people and develop the eRobota program, which envisages grants for entrepreneurs to start or grow their small-sized businesses, the government press service reported

Businss support, exports

Separately, Ukraine's Economy Ministry will focus on supporting business and developing export opportunities in 2023, the government press service reported on Tuesday.

Next year, the ministry will strive to increase the volume of business assistance programs by implementing effective mechanisms to support economic activities, said a statement on the country's government website.

In particular, Ukraine plans to offer cheap loans for business people and develop the eRobota program, which envisages grants for entrepreneurs to start or grow their small-sized businesses, said the statement.

In an attempt to boost its exports, Ukraine will seek to extend the temporary duty-free trade regimes with the European Union, the United States and Britain at least for the period during which it is in conflict with Russia, it added.

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Besides, Ukraine will intensify efforts to unlock the Black Sea ports, in particular the southern port of Mykolaiv, and will develop infrastructure in western Ukraine.