Jan 5, 2023 - World

Putin orders 36-hour ceasefire in Ukraine to mark Orthodox Christmas

Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Jan. 5.

Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Jan. 5. Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian armed forces to hold a 36-hour ceasefire along its front line in Ukraine starting on noon Friday to observe the Orthodox Christmas, the Kremlin announced Thursday.

State of play: Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, dismissed the order as "hypocrisy," tweeting that Russia's forces "must leave the occupied territories - only then will it have a 'temporary truce.'"

  • If it occurs, it would be the first major ceasefire since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began nearly a year ago.

Driving the news: The Kremlin said Putin ordered the ceasefire based on an appeal by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, who has supported Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine, leading to a schism between the Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox Churches.

  • Podolyak had rejected Kirill's earlier proposal, calling it "a cynical trap and an element of propaganda."

What they're saying: "Taking into account the appeal of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, 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 ceasefire along the entire line of contact between the parties in Ukraine," according to Putin’s order to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, which was released by the Kremlin.

  • "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 ceasefire and give them the opportunity to attend services on Christmas Eve, as well as on the Day of the Nativity of Christ," the order continues.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke separately with Zelensky and Putin on Thursday.

  • Erdoğan's office said the Turkish president told Zelensky that Ankara "stands ready to assume a facilitating and mediating role for the restoration of peace between Russia and Ukraine."
  • It also said Erdoğan told Putin that "calls for peace and negotiations should be supported with unilateral ceasefire and a vision for a fair solution."
  • After his call with Erdoğan, Zelensky said he was glad "to hear that [Turkey] is ready to participate in the implementation of our [peace formula]."

The big picture: Russia bombed Ukrainian cities on New Year's Eve and previously rejected a proposed truce for Orthodox Christian Easter in 2022.

  • Because of the break between the Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox Churches, the Ukrainian church allowed congregations to celebrate Christmas this year on Dec. 25 as part of a cultural and religious rebuke of Russia, Axios' Dan Primack reports.
  • At least 10 people were killed after Russia shelled the Kherson area on Dec. 24, per Bloomberg. Russian shelling of civilian areas in the region continued on Dec. 25.
  • Russia launched several attacks on Ukrainian cities in a brutal year-end bombardment, primarily with cruise missiles and Iranian-made "kamikaze" drones supplied to Russia, many of which were shot down by Ukrainian forces.

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