Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday ordered a 36-hour cease-fire in Ukraine over Orthodox Christmas, the first major truce of the more than 10-month war that has killed tens of thousands and devastated swaths of Ukraine.
Putin ordered the cease-fire to begin on Jan. 6, the Kremlin said. Many Orthodox Christians, including those living in Russia and Ukraine, celebrate Christmas on Jan. 6-7.
Putin did not appear to make his conditional on Ukrainian agreement to follow suit.
But it wasn’t clear whether hostilities would actually halt on the 684-mile front line. Ukrainian officials have previously dismissed Russian peace moves as playing for time to regroup their forces and prepare for additional attacks.
A senior Ukrainian official quickly dismissed the proposal.
"The Russian Federation must leave the occupied territories — only then will it have a 'temporary truce.' Keep hypocrisy to yourself," presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyakwrote on Twitter
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, called earlier Thursday for both sides of the war in Ukraine to observe a Christmas truce.
"Taking into account the appeal of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, I instruct the Minister of Defensce 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 in the order.
Statements from the Kremlin invariably use Russian time.
"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," Putin said.
Ukraine earlier dismissed Kirill's appeal, though there was no immediate reaction to Putin's ceasefire announcement.
A senior aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Mykhailo Podolyak, cast the Russian Orthodox Church as a "war propagandist" that had incited the "mass murder" of Ukrainians and the militarisation of Russia.
"The statement of the Russian Orthodox Church about the 'Christmas Truce' is a cynical trap and an element of propaganda," he said.
This report was compiled from Reuters and The Associated Press.
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