Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to observe a cease-fire “along the entire line of contact between the parties in Ukraine” for Orthodox Christmas, just hours after the head of Russia’s Orthodox Church made a similar request, the Kremlin announced Thursday.
“I instruct the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation to introduce from 12:00 January 6, 2023 until 24:00 January 7, 2023, a cease-fire along the entire line of contact between the parties in Ukraine,” the statement reads.
“Based on the fact that a large number of citizens professing orthodoxy live in the combat areas, we call on the Ukrainian side to declare a cease-fire” so they can attend church services for Orthodox Christmas, Putin added.
In his daily address, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy rejected Moscow’s truce offering, labeling it a “cover to at least briefly stop the advance” of Ukrainian forces in occupied Donbas.
“The war will be over when your soldiers either leave or we drive them out,” Zelenskyy added.
Earlier on Thursday, Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church and a close ally to Putin, had made a similar request in a message posted on the church’s website.
Minutes later, Kirill’s statement was dismissed as a “cynical trap” and “an element of propaganda” by Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak on Twitter.
After Putin’s announcement, Podolyak doubled down on his statement, saying that Russia “must leave the occupied territories – only then will it have a ‘temporary truce’. Keep hypocrisy to yourself.”
The majority of Ukrainians in fact prefer to celebrate Christmas on December 25, according to the Gregorian calendar, the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture said on December 30.
On December 24 during Christmas Eve, Russian forces massively shelled a central market in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, killing and injuring dozens of people. Many Kherson residents spent the next day at a local blood donation center. The Russian army continued massively bombing Ukraine throughout the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Addressing the question of a potential cease-fire in Ukraine over the Christmas break, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in December that “any unilateral call for a cease-fire by Russia is completely meaningless in the current context.”
A cease-fire, Sunak argued, would be a “false call,” and would only serve for Moscow to regroup its forces.
Veronika Melkozerova contributed reporting from Kyiv.
This article was updated.
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