Beginning on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin has given orders to his defense minister to put a ceasefire in place along the frontline in Ukraine that will last for a total of 36 hours.
The beginning of the ceasefire, which is scheduled to begin at 12:00 Moscow time (09:00 GMT), will coincide with the celebration of Christmas in the Russian Orthodox Church.
Mr. Putin requested a response from Ukraine, but the request was promptly turned down by Kyiv.
According to Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, the announcement “cannot and should not be taken seriously at this time.”
It appeared as though the Kremlin statement was emphasizing that President Putin had ordered his troops to stop fighting not because he was de-escalating the situation – Putin never de-escalates the situation – but rather because he had listened to an appeal from the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Earlier in the day, Patriarch Kirill had issued a call for a Christmas truce in order to make it possible for believers to attend church services in celebration of Orthodox Christmas.
According to the Julian calendar, Christmas Day is celebrated by the Russian Orthodox Church on the seventh of January.
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In a statement released by the Kremlin, it says, “Taking Kirill’s request into account, the president of the Russian Federation orders the minister of defense of the Russian Federation to put a ceasefire in place along the entire line of contact in Ukraine” for the next 36 hours.
In his order, Mr. Putin requested that Ukraine offer a similar gesture so that “large numbers of Orthodox believers [who] reside in areas where hostilities are taking place” would be able to celebrate Christmas Eve on Friday and Christmas Day on Saturday as usual.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian president, issued a statement shortly afterward on Twitter in which he said that there could be no “temporary truce” until Russian forces withdrew from all of the areas in Ukraine that they had occupied.
Later on, he referred to it as a “propaganda gesture,” a “trivial ploy,” and an attempt by Russia to solicit pressure on Ukraine from countries in Europe by pretending that it was “humanistic.” He said these things in a press conference.
According to him, Russia was attempting to gain some breathing room in order to reorganize and construct new defenses.
These sentiments were echoed by Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmitro Kuleba, who stated that Russia had repeatedly disregarded President Volodymyr Zelensky’s suggestions for achieving peace. As evidence that Moscow is unable to stop hostilities during religious holidays, he cited Russia’s shelling of Kherson on the eve of Christmas and Russia’s strikes on the eve of the New Year.
Joe Biden, the President of the US, stated that Vladimir Putin was “just trying to find some oxygen.”
The ceasefire ordered by the Kremlin is perfectly compatible with the dominant narrative in Moscow, which is primarily directed toward the audience that resides within the country. That is, the Russians are on the side of righteousness, and Ukraine and the West are the ones who pose a threat to Russia.
Since the Ukrainians have rejected the proposal, Moscow will claim that Kyiv does not respect religious believers and has no desire for peace. A truce is also a useful tool that can be used to demonize Ukraine.
However, the fact that Russia initiated this conflict by carrying out an invasion of its neighbor for no apparent reason is something that must not be overlooked.
This move also comes just a few days after a Ukrainian strike on a temporary barracks in the occupied Ukrainian city of Makiivka resulted in the deaths of a large number of Russian troops.
The Russian Ministry of Defense put the death toll at 89, making it the single incident with the highest number of lives lost that Moscow has acknowledged since the war began.
The bereaved families, along with some politicians and commentators, have voiced their outrage over the events that took place in Makiivka and have placed the blame on incompetent military officials. The incident took place on the evening before New Year’s Eve, which is considered to be the most significant holiday in the Russian calendar.
According to political analyst Tatyana Stanovaya, it is possible that the Kremlin wants to make certain that there is not another major loss of life on another significant holiday that takes place in Russia.
According to what she wrote, Vladimir Putin “really does not want a repetition of that on Orthodox Christmas Day.”
Earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan approached Russian President Vladimir Putin with a request to call for a “unilateral” ceasefire in Ukraine so that both sides could begin negotiations.
There are a number of Eastern Orthodox churches, the most prominent of which is the Russian Orthodox Church; however, there are others.
In Ukraine, some people celebrate Christmas on the twenty-fifth of December, while others wait until the seventh of January. Both Monday and Tuesday are observed as national holidays throughout the nation.
The Orthodox Church of Ukraine announced that for the very first time this year, it would permit its congregations to celebrate Christmas on the twenty-fifth of December, which is also the practice of some other denominations in western Ukraine.
In 2018, the church severed its ties with another organization with the same name, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC).
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Before the Russian invasion, the UOC itself had ties to the religious leadership of Moscow; after the invasion, some of the UOC’s most senior clergy have been accused of continuing to covertly support Moscow.
A few hours after Russia’s announcement that hostilities would cease, Germany became the most recent nation to offer additional military support to Ukraine. Germany announced that it would provide a Patriot air defense missile system, following in the footsteps of the United States.
Following France’s announcement on Wednesday that it would send armored fighting vehicles, this comes as a surprise.
In the face of ongoing Russian aggression, the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv has made numerous pleas to its international allies for increased support.