Vladimir Putin orders 36-hour Christmas truce as Ukraine says Russian forces must leave first

5 January 2023, 15:31 | Updated: 5 January 2023, 16:20

Orthodox Christian Christmas is celebrated on January 7
Orthodox Christian Christmas is celebrated on January 7. Picture: Getty
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Vladimir Putin has ordered Russia's defence minister to implement a ceasefire in Ukraine from 12pm on Friday to midnight on Saturday.

The 36-hour ceasefire will act in line with the Orthodox Christian Christmas, which is celebrated on January 7.

An official statement from the Kremlin on the Telegram app read: "Instructions of the President of the Russian Federation to the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.

"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.

"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."

Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to Volodymyr Zelenskyy, reacted on Twitter, and accused Russia of "hypocrisy".

He tweeted: "First. Ukraine doesn't attack foreign territory & doesn't kill civilians. As [Russian forces] do. Ukraine destroys only members of the occupation army on its territory.

"Second. Russian forces must leave the occupied territories - only then will it have a "temporary truce". Keep hypocrisy to yourself."

People look at the destroyed hotel in the centre of Kyiv
People look at the destroyed hotel in the centre of Kyiv. Picture: Getty

There has been no response from Ukraine, which had previously rejected a call from the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, labelling it a “cynical trap”.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak dismissed Mr Kirill’s call as “a cynical trap and an element of propaganda”.

Read More: Kyiv rebuffs Russia church head’s call for truce in Ukraine

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Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky proposed a Russian troop withdrawal earlier, before December 25, but Russia rejected it.

Mr Kirill has previously justified the war as part of Russia’s “metaphysical struggle” to prevent a liberal ideological encroachment from the west.Moscow officials made no comment on Mr Kirill’s overture.

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone with Turkey’s president on Thursday and the Kremlin said Mr Putin “reaffirmed Russia’s openness to a serious dialogue” with Ukrainian authorities.

But that professed readiness came with the usual preconditions: that “Kyiv authorities fulfil the well-known and repeatedly stated demands and recognise new territorial realities”, the Kremlin said, referring to Moscow’s insistence that Ukraine recognises Crimea as part of Russia and acknowledge other illegal territorial gains.

Previous attempts at peace talks have fallen at that hurdle as Ukraine demands Russia withdraws from occupied areas.

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