Russia and Ukraine: Kyiv rejects Putin’s “frivolous” Christmas peace
- Will Vernon in Moscow and Samuel Hurt in London
- BBC News
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the defense minister to impose a 36-hour ceasefire on the Ukrainian front lines starting Friday.
And the truce begins among Orthodox Christians at nine GMT, coinciding with the Christmas holiday.
Putin demanded reciprocity from the Ukrainian side, but Kyiv quickly refused.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia wanted a ceasefire to stop the advance of the Ukrainian army.
The Kremlin stressed in a statement that Putin’s decision to call the ceasefire was not to stop military escalation, but because he was responding to a request from Patriarch Kirill, the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Kirill had called for a truce during the Christmas holidays to allow Christians to go to churches and take part in special prayers on the occasion, which the Russian Church is holding on the seventh of this month.
“Taking into account the request of (Kirill), the President of the Russian Federation decided to order the Minister of Defense to cease fire along the contact lines in Ukraine for 36 hours,” the Kremlin statement said.
Putin called on Ukraine to respond in kind so that “Orthodox Christians can rest in places where hostilities are taking place” and celebrate Christmas Eve on Friday and Christmas Day on Saturday.
But Zelenskyy said in his evening speech that Russia wants to use the ceasefire as justification to halt Ukraine’s military advance in the eastern Donbass region and bring in more troops and equipment.
“What will that do for you? Just more total losses,” he said. Zelenskyj said the sentence in Russian in a way that he was not used to from his previous speeches.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba said Moscow had ignored President Zelenskyy’s repeated pleas for peace. Russia’s bombing of Kherson on Christmas Eve and the raids that took place on New Year’s Eve showed that Moscow was unable to halt hostilities during religious events.
US President Joe Biden thought Putin was some relief.
The proposed ceasefire is in line with the Russian narrative being promoted at the national level, which states that the Russians are the good party, while the Ukrainian side and the West are the party threatening Russia.
The ceasefire proposal could also be used to demonize Ukraine, which opposed it as Moscow will claim that Kyiv disrespected religious causes and had no desire for peace.
Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Mikhailo Podolyak said there could be no “temporary ceasefire” until Russian forces had withdrawn from all Ukrainian territories they occupied, considering it “crude propaganda, a cheap ruse” and a Russian attempt to put more pressure on Ukraine Part of European countries on Ukraine by pretending to be “humane”.
He said we should not forget that it was Russia that started this war by invading the territory of a neighboring country for no reason.
This comes days after a large number of Russian soldiers were killed in a Ukrainian raid aimed at a makeshift camp near the Ukrainian town of Makivka.
And the Russian Defense Ministry said the death toll reached 89, according to official Russian figures, which is the largest number of Russian casualties during an attack.
The relatives of the dead and a number of Russian politicians expressed their anger at what happened in Makivka and blamed the incompetent military leaders. The attack also took place during preparations for Russia’s most important event of the year.
Political scientist Tatiana Stanovaya said that the Kremlin may be ready not to suffer any more casualties on this important occasion for the Russian people.
“Putin really doesn’t want to repeat that during the Orthodox Christmas holiday,” she said.
The Russian Orthodox Church is the largest Orthodox Church in the East.
Some Ukrainians celebrate Christmas on December 25, others on January 7, and the country considers the two days an official holiday.
Exceptionally, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has said this year that it will allow its followers to celebrate the occasion on December 25, as well as followers of other denominations in the country.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church split from its Russian counterpart in 2018.
The Church was subordinate to the Moscow Church until the Russian invasion, and some of its leaders were accused of secretly supporting Moscow.
Hours after the Russian ceasefire was announced, Germany announced that it would follow the United States’ lead in providing Patriot air defense batteries to Ukraine.
Germany also said in a joint statement with Washington that the two countries would provide Ukraine with more armored vehicles.
France said on Wednesday it would send armored fighting vehicles to Kyiv.
Kyiv has repeatedly called for more military support from its western allies in the face of the Russian army.
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