Vladimir Putin orders 36-hour ceasefire in Ukraine to mark Christmas

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Vladimir Putin orders 36-hour ceasefire in Ukraine to mark Christmas
Vladimir Putin orders 36-hour ceasefire in Ukraine to mark Christmas

Vladimir Putin has called for a 36-hour ceasefire in Ukraine this weekend to mark the Russian Orthodox Christmas holiday.

The truce in the war, which began almost 11 months ago, would run from noon on January 6 to midnight on January 7, the Kremlin said.

Putin did not appear to make his ceasefire order conditional on a Ukrainian agreement to follow suit, and it was not clear whether hostilities would actually halt on the 1,100-kilometre (684-mile) frontline.

The Russian President's order follows a proposal by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, earlier in the day.

However, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak dismissed Kirill's call as "a cynical trap and an element of propaganda."

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Before December 25, President Volodymyr Zelensky had proposed a Russian troop withdrawal, but Russia rejected it.

Vladimir Putin orders 36-hour ceasefire in Ukraine to mark ChristmasVladimir Putin has ordered a 36-hour ceasefire in Ukraine (Mikhail Klimentyev/AP/REX/Shutterstock)

Putin's order, addressed to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and published on the Kremlin's website today, says: "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."

Mr Podolyak criticised the Russian President for his "hypocrisy" and said his troops should leave Ukraine.

He tweeted: "First. Ukraine doesn't attack foreign territory & doesn't kill civilians. As RF does. Ukraine destroys only members of the occupation army on its territory...

Vladimir Putin orders 36-hour ceasefire in Ukraine to mark ChristmasPutin speaking in a recording of his annual televised New Year's message (Mikhail Klimentyev/AP/REX/Shutterstock)

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

The Russian Orthodox Church, which uses the ancient Julian calendar, celebrates Christmas on January 7 - later than the Gregorian calendar - although some Christians in Ukraine also mark the holiday on that date.

Putin's call for a ceasefire comes after the head of NATO said he detected no change in Moscow's stance on Ukraine, insisting that the Kremlin "wants a Europe where they can control a neighbouring country."

Vladimir Putin orders 36-hour ceasefire in Ukraine to mark ChristmasVolodymyr Zelensky addressing the US Congress at the US Capitol in Washington (AFP via Getty Images)

"We have no indications that President Putin has changed his plans, his goals for Ukraine," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Oslo.

Ukraine's Western allies have renewed a vow to keep supporting Kyiv for as long as it takes to defeat Russia.

In the latest pledge of military help, the French Defense Ministry said it plans talks soon with its Ukrainian counterpart on delivering armored combat vehicles.

Give Ukraine western fighter jets to fight Russians, urges Boris JohnsonGive Ukraine western fighter jets to fight Russians, urges Boris Johnson
Vladimir Putin orders 36-hour ceasefire in Ukraine to mark ChristmasEmergency service workers extinguish a fire after shelling on the Bakhmut frontline in Ivanivske, Ukraine (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

France's presidency says it will be the first time this type of Western-made wheeled tank destroyer is sent to Ukraine's military.

The fighting in Ukraine has increasingly become a war of attrition in recent weeks, as winter sets in.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian presidential office, said on Thursday at least five civilians were killed and eight wounded across the country by Russian shelling in the previous 24 hours.

Chiara Fiorillo

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