The ceasefire ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin for Orthodox Christmas did not hold, as heavy shelling was reported in eastern Ukraine on Friday and Saturday.
The ceasefire was to be held from noon on Friday through midnight on Saturday. The Russian military insisted that it observed the ceasefire but said it did respond to Ukrainian attacks. The Russian Defense Ministry said Russian forces “deflected” Ukrainian attacks and killed more than 20 Ukrainian soldiers on Friday.
Local Russian-backed authorities in the city of Donestk claimed that Ukraine began shelling areas immediately after the ceasefire was supposed to take effect.
Ukrainian officials immediately rejected the ceasefire after Putin gave the order on Thursday but still blamed Russia for the outset of fighting. “The world was once again able to see today how false any words of any level that sound from Moscow are,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address Saturday.
“They were saying something about a supposed ceasefire. The reality, however, was that Russian shells once again hit Bakhmut and other Ukrainian positions,” Zelensky added.
Instead of encouraging a temporary pause in fighting in Ukraine, the US and other Western countries also rejected Putin’s ceasefire. After Putin gave the order for a unilateral ceasefire, the State Department dismissed it as a “cynical ploy” and claimed Russia was trying to use the 36-hour period to reinforce its troops.