Vladimir Putin has ordered a temporary ceasefire in the war in Ukraine to allow people to mark Orthodox Christmas, Russian media has reported.
The Russian leader called on Kyiv to observe the proposed truce, which would run for 36-hours: From 12pm, January 6 to midnight on January 7.
He ordered his defence minister Sergei Shoigu to introduce the ceasefire along the entire line of contact, the Kremlin reported.
The call for a ceasefire followed an earlier proposal by Russia’s spiritual leader Patriarch Kirill for an Orthodox Christmas truce this week.
The step was dismissed by Kyiv as a cynical trap by Moscow. There has been no immediate reaction from Ukrainian officials to Putin’s announcement.
Vladimir Putin (pictured today) has ordered a temporary ceasefire in the war in Ukraine to allow people to mark Orthodox Christmas, Russian media has reported
The Russian president called on Kyiv to observe the proposed truce, which would run for 36-hours: From 12pm, January 6 to midnight on January 7. Pictured: A Ukrainian soldier fires an RPG near the front lines of Ukraine on January 3
‘Taking into account the appeal of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, I instruct the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation to introduce a ceasefire regime along the entire line of contact of the parties in Ukraine from 12.00 on January 6, 2023 to 24.00 on January 7, 2023,’ Putin said in the order.
‘Proceeding from the fact that a large number of citizens professing Orthodoxy live in the areas of hostilities, we call on the Ukrainian side to declare a ceasefire and allow them to attend services on Christmas Eve, as well as on Christmas Day.’
Earlier on Thursday, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak dismissed Patriarch Kirill’s call as ‘a cynical trap and an element of propaganda.’
President Volodymyr Zelensky had proposed a Russian troop withdrawal earlier, before December 25, but Russia rejected it.
The Russian Orthodox Church, which uses the ancient Julian calendar, celebrates Christmas on Jan. 7 – later than the Gregorian calendar – although some Christians in Ukraine also mark the holiday on that date.
The call for a ceasefire followed an earlier proposal by Russia’s spiritual leader Patriarch Kirill for an Orthodox Christmas truce this week. Pictured: Ukrainian servicemen ride a tank in the village of Torske, Donetsk region, Ukraine December 30, 2022
Emergency service workers extinguish a fire after shelling on the Bakhmut frontline in Ivanivske, Ukraine as Russia-Ukraine war continues on January 2
Kirill has previously justified the war as part of Russia’s ‘metaphysical struggle’ to prevent a liberal ideological encroachment from the West.
Putin spoke by phone with Turkey’s president Thursday and the Kremlin said Putin ‘reaffirmed Russia’s openness to a serious dialogue’ with Ukrainian authorities.
But that professed readiness came with the usual preconditions: that ‘Kyiv authorities fulfill the well-known and repeatedly stated demands and recognise new territorial realities,’ the Kremlin said, referring to Moscow’s insistence that Ukraine recognize Crimea as part of Russia and acknowledge other illegal territorial gains.
Russian troops occupy large swathes of eastern and southern Ukraine. The Kremlin claims it has annexed the Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions despite not controlling them in their entirety.
Previous attempts at peace talks have fallen at that hurdle, as Ukraine demands that Russia withdraws from occupied areas at the very least.
Elsewhere, the head of NATO said he detected no change in Moscow’s stance on Ukraine, insisting that the Kremlin ‘wants a Europe where they can control a neighboring country.’
‘We have no indications that President Putin has changed his plans, his goals for Ukraine,’ NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Oslo.
Erdogan, meanwhile, pressed Putin to declare a ‘unilateral’ ceasefire in Ukraine.
Erdogan spoke to both Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in his latest attempts as a mediator to broker an end to the 10-month war, that began when the Russian despot ordered the invasion on February 24, 2022.
This is not the first time Putin has expressed that he is ready for peace talks under the conditions set out by Moscow.
On Christmas Day, in an interview with state television about the war in Ukraine, Putin said that Russia is ‘prepared to negotiate some acceptable outcomes’.
In recent days, the Russian army have faced a number of setbacks, with Ukraine striking several targets – resulting in what Kyiv says was hundreds of deaths.
Russia said Wednesday the toll climbed in its worst single reported loss from a Ukrainian strike, which an increasingly criticised Moscow blamed on troops using their mobile phones that gave away their location.
The Ukrainian military’s strategic communications unit has said nearly 400 Russian soldiers were killed in the town of Makiivka in eastern Ukraine, and even Russian commentators have said the death toll may be far higher than the 89 Russia admits.
The death toll in Makiivka is the highest reported by the Russian military in a single strike since its troops invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
The deadly strike came after months of discontent within Russia towards the military following a series of battlefield defeats and a hugely unpopular mobilisation drive.
The Russian Orthodox Church, which uses the ancient Julian calendar, celebrates Christmas on Jan. 7 – later than the Gregorian calendar – although some Christians in Ukraine also mark the holiday on that date. Pictured: A Christmas tree is seen in Kyiv on January 2
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Western allies have renewed a vow to keep supporting Kyiv for as long as it takes to defeat Russia.
In the latest pledge of military help, the French Defense Ministry said it plans talks soon with its Ukrainian counterpart on delivering armored combat vehicles.
France’s presidency says it will be the first time this type of Western-made wheeled tank destroyer is sent to Ukraine’s military.
Also, U.S. President Joe Biden said Bradley Fighting Vehicles, a medium armored combat vehicle that can serve as a troop carrier, could be sent to Ukraine.
The fighting in Ukraine has increasingly become a war of attrition in recent weeks, as winter sets in.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian presidential office, said Thursday at least five civilians were killed and eight wounded across the country by Russian shelling in the previous 24 hours.
The ongoing intense battle for the eastern city of Bakhmut has left 60% of the city in ruins, Donetsk Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said Thursday.
Ukrainian defenders were holding the Russians back, but the Kremlin’s forces have pummeled the city with months of relentless shelling.
Taking the city in the Donbas region, an expansive industrial area bordering Russia, would not only give Putin a major battlefield gain after months of setbacks, but it also would rupture Ukraine’s supply lines and open the way for Moscow’s forces to press on toward key Ukrainian strongholds in Donetsk.