A Russian proposal for a truce for the Orthodox Christmas holiday has been categorically refused by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who claims that the suggested ceasefire is a ruse to stop the progress of the Ukrainian army in the eastern Donbas region and allow Moscow to post more troops there.
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, called for a Christmas truce, the Kremlin announced on Thursday. As a result, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued an order for a 36-hour ceasefire that will extend from Friday noon (09:00 GMT) through the end of Saturday (21:00 GMT).
According to a statement from the Kremlin citing Putin, “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 with the parties in Ukraine.”
It was unclear from the directive whether the truce would apply to Russia’s offensive and defensive actions, and it was also unclear whether Russia would retaliate if Ukraine continued to fight.
On Thursday evening, Zelenskyy addressed the Kremlin and the Russian people as a whole and said bluntly in Russian that Moscow had consistently disregarded Kyiv’s peace initiative.
“They now want to use Christmas, albeit briefly, as a cover to stop the advance of our guys in Donbas and bring equipment, ammunition, and mobilized troops closer to our positions,” Zelenskyy stated in his late-night video address.
“What will that do for you? Just another increase in their total losses.”
“The whole world knows how the Kremlin uses war breaks to continue the war with renewed vigor,” Zelensky added.
On January 7, the Orthodox Church of Russia celebrates Christmas. The largest Orthodox church in Ukraine is now acknowledged as being independent and rejecting loyalty to the Moscow patriarch. Numerous Christians in Ukraine have also changed their calendars to observe Christmas on December 25 like the rest of the world.
Zalensky claimed that when Russian forces departed Ukraine or were expelled, the war would be over.