Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday ordered Russian forces to implement a unilateral ceasefire for Orthodox Christmas beginning at noon on Friday and lasting through Saturday, but Ukrainian officials have rejected the idea of a truce.
Putin’s order came after the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, called on both sides to stop fighting for Orthodox Christmas, which is celebrated on January 7.
“Taking into account the appeal of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, I instruct the Minister of Defense 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’s order reads.
A Kremlin statement called on the Ukrainian side to allow a truce for people to attend Christmas services. “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,” the statement said.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, rejected Putin’s order, calling it “hypocrisy.” He said the only way there could be a “temporary truce” is if Russia withdraws from the Ukrainian territories it has captured. Podolyak earlier rejected Patriarch Kirill’s calls for a Christmas truce, calling it a “cynical trap.”
Asked about Putin’s order, President Biden said, “I’m reluctant to respond to anything that Putin says … I think he’s trying to find some oxygen.”