Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his army to observe a 36-hour ceasefire in Ukraine for Russian Orthodox Christmas this weekend and called on Kyiv to do the same.
But the Ukrainians quickly dismissed the move as a propaganda ploy and another attempt by Moscow to buy more time for its army to regroup.
“First. Ukraine does not attack foreign territory or kill civilians. As [Russia] Is. Ukraine only destroys members of the occupying army on its territory…” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak reacted on Twitter. “Second. [Russia] must leave the occupied territories – only then will there be a “temporary truce”. Keep the hypocrisy to yourself,” he added.
Putin ordered his defense minister to institute the ceasefire “along the entire line of contact between the parties in Ukraine” from noon local time (4 a.m. ET) on Friday, the Kremlin said in a statement. press release published Thursday on Telegram. The proposed Christmas truce would last until midnight local time (4 p.m. ET) on Saturday.
The Russian president did not appear to condition his order on Ukraine agreeing to follow suit, and it was unclear what the unilateral announcement would mean for the state of the fighting on the front lines. of the conflict.
Ukrainian officials previously dismissed the idea when it was first floated by Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, which maintains a close association with the government and has provided some kind of spiritual cover to the invasion.
Podolyak had dismissed Kirill’s appeal as “a cynical trap and piece of propaganda”.
Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Oleksiy Danilov supported this.
“What’s the connection between a pack of little Kremlin demons and a Christian holiday?” Danilov wrote: on Twitter. “Who will believe the scum who kills children, bombs maternity wards, tortures prisoners? A ceasefire? Lies and hypocrisy. We will crunch you in the singing silence of the Ukrainian night.”
The Russian Orthodox Church, which uses the old Julian calendar, celebrates Christmas on January 7, later than the Gregorian calendar. Some Orthodox Christians in Ukraine have recently started celebrating Christmas on December 25 to show their anger and defiance in Moscow.
“Since a large number of citizens professing Orthodoxy live in the areas of hostilities, we call on the Ukrainian side to declare a ceasefire and give them the opportunity to attend services on Christmas Eve , as well as the day of the Nativity of Christ,” Putin said.
Putin’s proposal comes after 10 months of fierce fighting.
His campaign in Ukraine suffered a series of setbacks late last year, with Kyiv army counterattacks forcing retreats from large areas the Russian army had seized and which Putin claimed to have annexed to east and south of the country.
The Kremlin responded by calling up hundreds of thousands of reservists and stepping up its involvement in the conflict.
With ground fighting largely frozen in the dead of winter, Moscow’s military bombarded civilian targets across Ukraine from the air, including a series of missile strikes on New Year’s Eve.
Kyiv warned that Putin’s consolidated and reinforced army could plan a major new offensive in the coming months and urged its Western allies to provide more powerful weapons.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden is expected to announce on Friday that Bradley Fighting Vehicles, an armored fighting vehicle that can be used as a personnel carrier, will soon be sent to Ukraine, three US officials told NBC News.
Biden’s announcement will come after his meeting with German Chancellor Scholz on Thursday afternoon, an official said.
While further fueling support for Kyiv from the United States and Europe, Russia’s ongoing invasion has also drawn scant criticism at home.
Earlier this week, the Russian military blamed its soldiers’ use of mobile phones for a Ukrainian missile attack that killed dozens and fueled a new round of domestic criticism of the way the war is being fought.
The strike dealt another blow to the Kremlin’s public image and renewed criticism of military leaders from nationalist bloggers and pro-war voices around the country.
Associated Press, Carol E. Lee and Courtney Kube contributed.