Despite Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s claims that he instructed his forces to maintain a 36-hour truce for the Orthodox Christmas, Russian and Ukrainian artillery has kept pounding targets in war-torn eastern Ukraine.
On Friday, after Moscow’s command for its forces to maintain a unilateral ceasefire from midday in commemoration of the Russian holiday, exchanges of artillery fire were recorded along the front lines of the Ukrainian cities of Bakhmut and Kreminna, as well as other areas in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
The Russian defence ministry stated that starting at noon Moscow time (09:00 GMT) on Friday, it was observing the cease-fire throughout the whole “line of contact.”
It said that only when the Ukrainian army stormed Russian positions during the truce did its forces begin to exchange fire.
Soon after the ostensible cease-fire began, air warnings were reported throughout Ukraine. Later, the governor of the Kherson region said that an attack on a fire station in the region’s biggest city, which Ukrainian troops seized in November, resulted in the death of a rescuer and the injuries of four other persons.
According to Ukrainian sources, Kramatorsk in the east was also attacked, and more than a dozen structures were destroyed.
Serhiy Haidai, the head of the Luhansk region, cautioned that Russia’s Christmas truce was “a lie and a trap” and advised locals to avoid attending Orthodox Church services or congregating in public areas because the Russians might be preparing “terrorist assaults.”
Vitaliy Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv, issued a warning that the city’s evening lows will plunge to -11°C and urged prudent use of electricity.
According to Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, the cease-fire was an effort to impede military progress made by his nation in the country’s east and to send in more troops and equipment.
In the eastern city of Bakmut, where Russian forces have largely concentrated their firepower to advance westward toward Kramatorsk, artillery fire could be observed on both sides of the front line.
In the first three hours of the ostensible truce, Russian forces blasted Ukrainian positions 14 times and assaulted one town three times, according to Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the frontline eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk.
Early on Friday, Russian soldiers attacked a fire department in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, killing one rescue worker and injuring four others, according to the regional governor.
Rockets smashed into a residential structure in Kramatorsk, close to the eastern battle line, just before the ceasefire was supposed to begin, damaging 14 residences but causing no injuries because many residents have evacuated.