The U.S. and Germany say they will send Ukraine armored fighting vehicles and another Patriot system.
Russia’s President Vladimir V. Putin on Thursday ordered his army to implement a 36-hour ceasefire along the front line in Ukraine by Orthodox Christmas and urged the Kyiv government to do the same, the Kremlin said. .
A senior Ukrainian official was quick to dismiss the move as a “banal trick” and a “propaganda gesture”, though it was unclear what Kyiv’s final response would be and whether hostilities would actually cease along a front line of almost 700 miles.
Ukraine has accused Russia in the past of violating a humanitarian ceasefire and has expressed skepticism about Moscow’s promises to exercise military restraint.
Putin established the ceasefire, which would be the broadest of its kind since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nearly a year ago, from noon Friday to midnight Saturday, the Kremlin said. The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed had received the order.
Russia celebrates Orthodox holidays according to the Julian calendar, as do some Ukrainians, which is different from the Gregorian calendar used by mostly Catholic and Protestant nations.
“Since a large number of citizens practicing Orthodoxy reside in the areas of hostilities, we call on the Ukrainian side to announce a ceasefire and give them the opportunity to attend services on Christmas Eve and the day of birth. of Christ,” the Kremlin said. the statement said.
Analysts characterized Putin’s order as a public relations move that can be exploited regardless of Ukraine’s response. If Kyiv agrees to a ceasefire, it would give Russia’s battered armed forces a chance to regroup. If Ukraine ignores the ceasefire, Russia can claim moral higher ground and further vilify Ukraine before the Russian public.
Ukrainian officials immediately questioned the sincerity of Putin’s announcement, pointing out that Russia had bombed civilians on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. “Your current ‘unilateral ceasefire’ cannot and should not be taken seriously,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a Twitter post.
Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior presidential adviser, wrote on Twitter that the Moscow troops “must leave the occupied territories; only then will they have a ‘temporary truce,’” he added, “Keep the hypocrisy to yourselves.” In a separate statement, he called the ceasefire order a “propaganda gesture” and a “banal trick.”
“There is not the slightest desire to end the war,” he said.
Some Ukrainians, especially in the western part of the country, celebrate Christmas on December 25, and on Christmas Eve Russian shelling killed at least 10 people in the recently recaptured Ukrainian city of Kherson.
In Washington, President Biden said it seemed to him that Putin was “trying to find some oxygen” with the ceasefire announcement. “I found it interesting, he was ready to bomb hospitals, day care centers and churches on the 25th and New Years,” Biden said.
Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, called Putin’s ceasefire announcement, which came after Russian attacks on civilian targets, “cynical.” He warned that Russia could use a lull in the fighting “to rest, refit, regroup and ultimately strike again.”
“We have little faith in the intentions behind this announcement,” he told reporters at a daily briefing. “I think we know better than to take everything we see or hear from Russia at face value.”
Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres, said a temporary truce for the Orthodox holiday would not replace a “just peace in accordance with the UN charter and international law.”
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said a ceasefire does little to help Ukrainians living in fear under Russian occupation. “If Putin wanted peace, he would take his soldiers home and the war would end,” she wrote. On twitter. “But he evidently wants to continue the war after a short break.”
Putin’s announcement came just hours after the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill I, called for a ceasefire to allow Orthodox Christians on the front line to attend services.
It also followed Putin’s conversation with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who has positioned himself as a mediator in the conflict and on Thursday called for a ceasefire.
megan special Y anushka patil contributed reporting.