Kiev, Jan 6 (UiTV/IANS) – Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has rejected Russia’s “trivial” Christmas ceasefire offer, saying it was a cover for Moscow to stop Ukrainian advances in the eastern Donbas region and bring in more conscripts and equipment.
On Thursday evening, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his Defence Minister to impose the 36-hour ceasefire on the Ukrainian frontline, beginning at 12 a.m. on Friday to coincide with the Russian Orthodox Christmas, the BBC reported.
The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas Day on January 7, according to the Julian calendar.
In a statement, the Kremlin said: “Taking into consideration the appeal by (Kirill, Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church), 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.”
The 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.
But in his nightly address to the nation, Zelensky said: “Now they want to use Christmas as a cover to stop the advance of our servicemen in the Donbas for a short time and bring equipment, ammunition and conscripts closer to our positions. What does this mean? Just another increase in the volume of losses.
“Everyone in the world knows how the Kremlin uses the respite in war to continue the war with renewed vigour.”
Also responding to the ceasefire offer, Zelensky’s adviser Mykhailo Podoliak said that a “temporary truce” can only begin when Russia leaves the Ukrainian territory, reports Ukrayinska Pravda.
In a tweet, he said that the “Russian Federation must leave the occupied territories; only then will it begin a ‘temporary truce’. Keep your hypocrisy to yourself”.
In another statement, the adviser called Putin’s offer “just a propaganda gesture. Nothing more”.
He further said that Russia wants to demonstrate supposedly “humane approaches in the war” and try to convince Europeans to put pressure on Ukraine.
In this way, Russia is attempting to achieve “immediate negotiations, acceptance of the Russian ultimatum, and a new line of demarcation”, Podoliak said, adding that “we should not respond to the deliberately manipulative initiatives of the Russian leadership”.
In a tweet, Oleksii Danilov, Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, said “we will not negotiate with them (Russia) on any truce. It has nothing to do with us”.
Thursday’s development comes after a Ukrainian missile attack that hit a college for conscripts in Makiivka (Donetsk region) shortly after midnight on January 1 killed 89 Russian troops.
This was the highest single loss of life admitted by Moscow since the war began on February 24, 2022.