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Saturday, January 7, 2023 – Ukraine has rejected an announcement by Russia president Vladimir Putin of a 36-hour ceasefire to mark Orthodox Christmas, saying there will be no ceasefire until Russia removes its invading forces from Ukraine’s land.
The Kremlin on Thursday, January 5, said Putin had ordered his defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, to introduce a temporary ceasefire along the entire line of contact in Ukraine for Orthodox Christmas from midday on Friday to midnight on Saturday.
“Taking into account the appeal of his holiness Patriarch Kirill, I instruct the minister of defence of the Russian Federation to introduce a ceasefire regime along the entire line of contact of the parties in Ukraine from 12.00 on 6 January 2023 to 24.00 on 7 January 2023,” Putin’s order, addressed to Shoigu and published on the Kremlin’s website, stated.
“Based on 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,” Putin added.
Many Orthodox Christians, including those living in Russia and Ukraine, celebrate Christmas on 6-7 January unlike traditional christians who do so on 25th December.
Since the war began, some Ukrainians are choosing to celebrate Christmas according to the Gregorian calendar of December 25 rather than the Julian calendar still used by the Russian Orthodox church.
But Ukriane’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has dismissed Russia’s ceasefire announcement, saying that Moscow had only made the announcement to halt Ukrainian advances in the eastern Donbas region and mobilise more men.
“They now want to use Christmas as a cover, albeit briefly, to stop the advances of our boys in Donbas and bring equipment, ammunitions and mobilised troops closer to our positions,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.
The Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak called Russia’s declaration a “hypocrisy.”
Russia “must leave the occupied territories – only then will it have a ‘temporary truce’. Keep hypocrisy to yourself,” Podolyak tweeted.
Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s national security and defence council, also dismissed Russia’s ceasefire proposal, accusing Moscow of “hiding behind a Christian holiday”.
“There is a simple solution: they pick up their suitcases, pick up their trash and go to Russia. That’s it,” Danilov told the Kanal 24 channel.
Separately, Danilov tweeted: “What does a bunch of little Kremlin devils have to do with the Christian holiday of Christmas? Who will believe an abomination that kills children, shells maternity homes, and tortures prisoners?”
Talking to reporters at the White House on Thursday, the US president, Joe Biden, said Putin was “trying to find some oxygen” by floating the idea, while Germany’s foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, said if Putin really wanted peace “he would bring his soldiers home”.
“A so-called ceasefire brings neither freedom nor security to people living in daily fear under Russian occupation,” Baerbock tweeted.
And British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly wrote on Twitter: “A 36 hour pause of Russian attacks will do nothing to advance the prospects for peace.”