Ukraine War: Putin orders 36-hour ceasefire over Orthodox Christmas


Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his defence minister to impose a 36-hour ceasefire on the Ukrainian frontline, beginning on Friday.

The ceasefire, scheduled to start at 12:00 Moscow time (09:00 GMT), will coincide with the Russian Orthodox Christmas.

Mr Putin asked Ukraine to reciprocate, but Kyiv quickly rejected the request.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said: “Keep hypocrisy to yourself.”

Mr Putin’s order followed an appeal from Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, on Thursday morning.

Kirill asked “all the parties involved” in the conflict to “cease fire and establish a Christmas truce”.

The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas Day on 7 January, according to the Julian calendar.

Mr Putin cited the patriarch’s appeal as motivation for the ceasefire order.

A Kremlin statement said: “Taking into consideration the appeal by [Kirill], the president hereby instructs the minister of defence of the Russian Federation to impose a ceasefire regime along the entire line of contact in Ukraine” for the 36-hour period.

Mr Putin’s order called on Ukraine to reciprocate so that the “large numbers of Orthodox believers [who] reside in areas where hostilities are taking place” could celebrate Christmas Eve on Friday and Christmas Day on Saturday.

In a statement on Twitter soon after, Mr Podolyak said there could be no “temporary truce” until Russian forces withdrew from all the areas they had occupied.

The BBC’s Will Vernon in Moscow says Russia’s move may be seen by some as a Kremlin tactic – to demonise Ukraine in the eyes of the Russian public if the ceasefire does not hold.

The Russian Orthodox Church is by far the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches, but there are others.

Some people in Ukraine celebrate Christmas on 25 December, others on 7 January. Both days are public holidays in the country.

This year, for the first time, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine said it would allow its congregations to celebrate Christmas on 25 December, as do some other denominations in western Ukraine.

The church split with the similarly named Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) in 2018. The UOC itself was tied to Moscow’s religious leadership until Russia’s invasion, and some of its top clergy have been accused of still covertly supporting Moscow.

Earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked Mr Putin to declare a “unilateral” ceasefire in Ukraine so that both sides could negotiate.

It followed the deaths of dozens of Russian soldiers in a new year missile strike on a building in occupied eastern Ukraine.

Russia’s defence ministry has so far conceded that 89 people were killed in the Ukrainian attack on Makiivka at around midnight on New Year’s Eve – the highest number of deaths acknowledged by Russia since it invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022.

Ukraine says as many as 400 people were killed.__Courtesy