Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russia Using Ceasefire As ‘Cover’ To Stop Ukraine In Donbas: Zelensky Photo by: Reuters/SPUTNIK

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to observe a unilateral 36-hour ceasefire in Ukraine this weekend for the Orthodox Christmas holiday, but Ukraine dismissed the proposal.

Ukraine said that there would be no truce until Russia withdraws its soldiers from its occupied land, reported Al Jazeera. Putin had ordered a 36-hour ceasefire from Friday after getting a call for a Christmas truce from Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, who is the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, said the Kremlin. It was the first truce move in the nearly 11-month-old war, reported the Associated Press. The Russian President did not appear to condition his ceasefire order on Ukraine’s acceptance. It wasn’t clear whether hostilities would actually pause on the 684-mile front line or elsewhere.

Putin said in a statement on Thursday that taking into account the appeal of Patriarch Kirill, he decided to "instruct the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation to introduce a ceasefire regime along the line of contact of the parties in Ukraine" from Friday to Saturday. He said that proceeding from the fact that many citizens professing Orthodoxy live in the areas of hostilities, they "call on the Ukrainian side to declare a ceasefire and allow them to attend services on Christmas Eve, as well as on Christmas Day."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy dismissed the move by Russia as playing for time to regroup its invasion troops and prepare more attacks. He said that Russia wants to use truce as cover to stop Ukrainian forces' advances in "Donbas and bring in more equipment."

Dismissing the proposal, a senior Ukrainian official said that a ceasefire could only happen if Russia leaves occupied territory in Ukraine. Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said that Russia “must leave the occupied territories," and only then will it "have a ‘temporary truce’. Keep hypocrisy to yourself.” He noted that unlike Russia, Ukraine was not attacking a foreign territory or murdering civilians. They were only destroying “members of the occupation army on its territory."

It was just an effort to find breathing room for his war effort, U.S. President Joe Biden said in response to Putin’s ceasefire order.

Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting of the coordination council to meet the needs of Russia's Armed Forces, other troops, military formations and bodies via a video conference in Moscow on October 25, 2022. Photo by Alexei Babushkin/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

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