Kyiv, Ukraine — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday ordered Moscow’s armed forces to hold a 36-hour cease-fire in Ukraine this weekend for the Russian Orthodox Christmas holiday, the Kremlin said. The order follows a proposal by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, earlier in the day, which was dismissed by an official in the Ukrainian presidential office as propaganda.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak called the Kremlin’s announcement declaring a ceasefire “hypocrisy,” adding that Russia “must leave the occupied territories – only then will it have a ‘temporary truce’.”
“Keep hypocrisy to yourself,” he wrote on Twitter.
Kirill suggested a truce from noon Friday through midnight Saturday, local time. The Russian Orthodox Church, which uses the ancient Julian calendar, celebrates Christmas on Jan. 7 — later than the Gregorian calendar — although some Christians in Ukraine also mark the holiday on that date.
“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 and give them the opportunity to attend services on Christmas Eve, as well as on the Day of the Nativity of Christ,” according to Putin’s order, addressed to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and published on the Kremlin’s website.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak dismissed Kirill’s call as “a cynical trap and an element of propaganda.” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had proposed a Russian troop withdrawal earlier, before Dec. 25, but Russia rejected it.
Kirill has previously justified the war as part of Russia’s “metaphysical struggle” to prevent a liberal ideological encroachment from the West.
Putin spoke by phone with Turkey’s president Thursday and the Kremlin said Putin “reaffirmed Russia’s openness to a serious dialogue” with Ukrainian authorities.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Putin to implement a “unilateral cease-fire,” according to a statement from the Turkish president’s office.
Erdogan also told Zelenskyy later by telephone that Turkey was ready to mediate a “lasting peace.” Erdogan has made such an offer frequently. It has already helped broker a deal allowing Ukraine to export millions of tons of grain, and it has facilitated a prisoner swap.
Russia’s professed readiness came with the usual preconditions: that “Kyiv authorities fulfill the well-known and repeatedly stated demands and recognize new territorial realities,” the Kremlin said, referring to Moscow’s insistence that Ukraine recognize Crimea as part of Russia and acknowledge other illegal territorial gains.
Previous attempts at peace talks have fallen at that hurdle, as Ukraine demands that Russia withdraws from occupied areas at the very least.
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