Breaking: Putin orders Christmas ceasefire in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a ceasefire in Ukraine from noon local time on January 6 to midnight on January 7, in observance of Orthodox Christmas.

Putin has instructed Russia’s defense minister to implement the ceasefire, but it has been met with skepticism and rejection by Ukraine, which has called for the withdrawal of Russian forces from its territory.

Mykhailo Podolyak, a political adviser to Ukraine’s president, has criticized Putin’s order for a Christmas ceasefire and accused Moscow of “hypocrisy” for calling on Ukraine to also declare a truce. Podolyak stated that Russia must leave the occupied territories in order for there to be a “temporary truce” and that Ukraine does not attack foreign territory or kill civilians, unlike Russia.

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has been ongoing since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and backed separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Some official wording from Putin’s orders read:

“Taking into account the appeal of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, I instruct the Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation to introduce a ceasefire regime along the entire line of contact of the parties in Ukraine from 12:00 on January 6, 2023 to 24:00 on January 7, 2023,” Putin said.

“Proceeding from the fact that a large number of citizens professing Orthodoxy live in the areas of hostilities, we call on the Ukrainian side to declare a ceasefire and allow them to attend services on Christmas Eve, as well as on Christmas Day,” he added.

Read also: USA cautions Russia against use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine

Ukraine began the new year with a major attack on Russian soldiers in their barracks, using its US-supplied HIMARS system to launch six artillery rockets at a barracks in Makiivka, in the Donetsk region. The attack, which took place just a couple of minutes into New Year’s Day, resulted in the deaths of 89 soldiers, according to Russia, though video of the wreckage suggests the number of casualties may be higher as the temporary barracks were almost completely flattened. Ukraine claimed that the soldiers were being housed alongside a major ammunition dump, which detonated, resulting in an estimated 400 Russian soldiers being killed and 300 wounded.

In addition to this attack, Ukraine also reported that it had shot down all 45 Shahed-136 drones launched by Russia on New Year’s Eve and all 13 drones launched by Russia on New Year’s Day. Brigadier-General Oleksiy Gromov stated that Ukrainian ground forces had advanced 2.5km towards the occupied town of Kreminna in the Luhansk region over the last week of 2022 and were continuing to make progress. If Ukraine were to recapture Kreminna and Svatove, both just a few kilometers from the line of contact in Luhansk, it could roll over a 40km section of territory before reaching the next natural Russian defensive position, according to military analysts. Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai stated that Ukraine could capture Kreminna as early as the beginning of 2023.

Despite Ukraine’s reported successes, Russia has continued to launch drones and missiles against Ukraine, though at a reduced intensity compared to previous days. Ukraine has declared that it has maintained a 100% kill rate against enemy drones, a rate “never achieved before” according to air force spokesperson Yuzef Venskovich. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has been ongoing since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and backed separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. The situation on the ground has been described as a stalemate, with both sides unable to make significant progress against the other. Ukraine is reportedly looking forward to new weapons supplies and the arrival of more advanced weapons in order to tip the balance in its favor. The impact of the conflict on the local population has been significant, with thousands of people being killed and many more being displaced. The situation shows no signs of improving, with tensions between the two countries remaining high.

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