- Russian President Putin ordered a ceasefire in Ukraine to mark Orthodox Christmas.
- Ukrainian President Zelensky rejected Moscow’s ceasefire, saying it was a trick to bring in more Russian forces.
- President Joe Biden thinks Putin’s ceasefire offer was a sign of desperation “to find some oxygen.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a ceasefire in Ukraine on Thursday after the head of Russia’s Orthodox Church requested a Christmas truce, a statement from the Kremlin read.
Putin ordered Russian troops to hold their fire from noon on Friday until midnight on Saturday. Russia’s Orthodox Church observes Christmas on Jan. 7.
In a statement, Putin said, “Given the appeal of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, I instruct the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation to introduce a ceasefire.”
In the hours prior to Putin’s 36-hour ceasefire declaration, rockets hit a residential building in the Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk. The strike destroyed 14 homes but with no casualties, the Kramatorsk mayor said.
Ukraine and its Western allies dismissed Putin’s truce call, describing it a trick to give Moscow time to reinforce troops and equipment after heavy losses in the industrial Donetsk region where Kramatorsk is located.
Germany promised to deliver an advanced Patriot anti-aircraft missile system and around 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine within three months. On Friday, the U.S. is due to announce a new $2.8 billion security package, including armored Bradley fighting vehicles to Kyiv.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky did not accept Putin’s truce offer, arguing Moscow’s goal was to stop the progress of Ukraine’s forces in Donetsk and the wider eastern Donbas region and bring in more Russian forces.
“They now want to use Christmas as a cover, albeit briefly, to stop the advances of our boys in Donbas and bring equipment, ammunitions, and mobilized troops closer to our positions,” Zelensky said on Thursday night.
President Joe Biden thinks Putin’s ceasefire offer was a sign of desperation, saying “I think he’s trying to find some oxygen,” he told reporters at the White House.
In response, Russia’s ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov, wrote on Facebook saying: “Washington is set on fighting with us ‘to the last Ukrainian’.”