Putin Calls a 36-Hour Cease-Fire, but Ukraine and U.S. Are Skeptical

The Kremlin on Thursday announced a 36-hour ceasefire in Ukraine to mark Eastern Orthodox Christmas, which would be the widest to date since the Russian invasion in September. Two. However, Ukraine’s leaders have rejected the idea, seeing it as the cynical posture of a ruthless and unreliable enemy.

Russian President Vladimir V. Putin ordered a ceasefire, from noon Friday to midnight Saturday, the Kremlin and the Defense Ministry said in separate statements. “Due to the large number of Orthodox citizens residing in the war zones, we urge the Ukrainian side to declare a ceasefire and give them the opportunity to attend Christmas Eve and Nativity Day celebrations. ,” said the Kremlin.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine responded with mockery in his nightly video messages, though he did not explicitly rule out the idea. After switching from speaking Ukrainian to Russian to speak directly to the Russian people, he spoke of those who “have caused all your people to be slaughtered” and “did not strive for peace”.

“Now they want to use Christmas as a cover” to halt Ukraine’s advances “and bring equipment, ammunition and mobilized troops closer to our positions,” he said. “Everybody in the world knows how the Kremlin uses the lull in the war to continue the war with new forces,” he added.

Russia has previously rejected — and, according to Ukraine, has repeatedly violated — a limited, local ceasefire intended to allow humanitarian evacuations and delivery of aid to besieged places like Mariupol.

The Kremlin’s announcement comes as Russian forces, after serious setbacks, are rushing to build defenses, transport new conscripts to the front and rebuild disbanded units. When the heavy cost of the war was first billed as a quick and easy war for ordinary Russians, Mr. more and more attention to domestic public concerns about the conflict. At the same time, his government, internationally isolated, was trying to reshape attitudes abroad.

In Washington, President Biden said it looked like Putin was “trying to get some oxygen” with the ceasefire declaration. “I’m reluctant to answer anything Putin says,” Biden said. “I find it amusing that he is ready to bomb hospitals, kindergartens and churches on the 25th and the new year.”

Meanwhile, the United States and Germany on Thursday announced that they will deliver armored fighting vehicles to Ukraine for the first time. the day after France did so, even though they don’t quote the number. For months, Ukrainian officials begged the promised armored vehicles, the American Bradley Fighting Vehicle, the French AMX-10 RC and the German Marder, as well as Western tanks, which the allies of Ukraine has so far refused to provide.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, after a phone call with Biden, said Germany would also send Ukraine the Patriot missile system, the most sophisticated US-made air defense weapon, two weeks after the president promised to provide it. give Ukraine the first Patriot. system.

After starting to lose ground at the end of the summer, Russian forces turned to bombarding civilian targets in Ukraine, destroying electrical and heating systems, and making air defenses an important factor in helping Ukrainians survived the winter. There’s been little movement on the battlefield lately, but that’s expected to change in the coming months, giving preference to armored vehicles.

Political and military analysts describe Putin’s announced ceasefire as a public relations ploy that he will try to exploit regardless of how Ukraine reacts. If Kyiv agrees to a ceasefire, they say, it will allow Putin to present himself as a peacemaker.

. If Ukraine ignores it, Russia could try to assert higher moral ground – despite the fact that Russia started the war and its forces committed many documented atrocities – and use used the ongoing hostile activities to defame Ukraine in the eyes of Russian and world public opinion.

Pavel Luzhin, a Russian military analyst, said the Kremlin “needs a break to restore some of its military might”, but knowing that Kiev was unlikely to accept a ceasefire, was playing tricks on the audience. domestic. “The Kremlin will demonstrate to the Russians, who are mostly war-weary, why the Russian leadership needs to keep fighting,” he said.

In recent days, Ukraine claims to have used long-range artillery to inflict heavy casualties in attacks on several Russian concentration points behind the front lines, and the Russian side has confirmed heavy losses. at one location. Tatiana Stanovaya, a Russian political analyst, thinks Putin may be trying to avoid another such disaster during the holiday.

Within hours, some of Putin’s most hawkish allies appeared to be undercutting his plans. Some pro-war Russian nationalists rejected the idea of ​​a ceasefire, emphasizing the depth of mutual hostility.

“We — Russian soldiers and volunteers — do not want any compromises,” an influential military blogger, Vladlen Tatarsky, wrote on the Telegram messaging app. “We want to kill everyone who wears the uniform of the enemy army.”

The Kremlin’s most famous proxies in occupied Ukraine, Denis Pushilin, wrote on Telegram that “can’t talk about any truce” and that a ceasefire “doesn’t mean we won’t respond to the opponent’s provocative actions”. Pushilin, head of the self-proclaimed separatist state in the Donetsk region that Russia has announced to annex, added that the ceasefire only applies to Orthodox Christians, not to the leadership. Ukraine – may refer to him. Zelensky is Jewish.

Some Ukrainians Christmas observation on December 25, especially in the western part of the country, where there is a substantial Roman Catholic population. But the Orthodox churches, which still use the Julian calendar instead of the newer Gregorian calendar, mark it on January 7, which this year falls on a Saturday.

The Russian announcement came hours after the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill I, a close ally of Mr Putin, called for a ceasefire to allow Orthodox Christians on both sides. frontline attending church services. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who sees himself as a mediator in the conflict, spoke to Putin on Thursday and also call for a ceasefire.

Ned Price, a spokesman for the US State Department, told reporters the Kremlin’s announcement was “sceptical”. He added, “I think we know better than to take anything we see or hear from Russia at face value.”

Mykhailo Podolyak, Zelensky’s senior adviser, dismissed the Kremlin’s ceasefire proposal in a statement, calling it a “propaganda gesture” and a “hoax”.

“After 10 months of genocide, after hundreds of Ukrainian churches were destroyed, isn’t it too late for the Kremlin to think about God?” The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine asked questions on social networks. The Foreign Ministry also said Putin’s proposal “cannot and should not be taken seriously”.

Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of spoiling Orthodox Christmas by continuing to attack civilians. A Russian attack on Thursday in the Kherson region killed a family of three, including a 12-year-old boy, who were preparing to spend Christmas together at home, officials said.

Report contributed by Alina Lobzina, Megan Specia, Cassandra Vinograd, Anushka Patil, John Ismay and Safak Timur.


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