Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a 36-hour ceasefire as from 12 noon Moscow time (0900 GMT) on Friday, along the entire Ukraine frontline, said the Kremlin. The Russian government statement said Putin's decision was in response to a call by Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill for a Christmas truce. Orthodox believers celebrate the holiday on January 7th. "As many Orthodox citizens live in the military action zone, we call on the Ukrainian side to declare a ceasefire to allow them to go to church on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day," said the official statement.
"Taking into account the request of Patriarch Kirill, I ask Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu to initiate a ceasefire along the entire front line on January 6th as from 12:00 (local time)," said Putin, according to a statement issued from the Kremlin. Putin has stipulated that the truce will remain in force until 00:00 on January 8th. Moscow explained that the decision had been made "taking into account the large number of citizens who profess the Orthodox religion and live in the combat zones".
Kiril had asked for a truce so that the faithful could celebrate Christmas.
"I, Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, appeal to all parties involved in this conflict for a ceasefire and a Christmas truce," he said in his appeal, published on the Russian Orthodox Church's website. The Christmas truce proposed by the religious leader aims to allow believers to go to church on Christmas Eve. It will come into effect at 12 noon Moscow time (0900 GMT) on Friday and will run until midnight (2100 GMT) on the 7th, the same deadline as the ceasefire ordered by Putin. It is the first time the Russian president has ordered a ceasefire on all war fronts since the invasion of Ukraine began on February 24th.
But Kirill's call has not gone down well in Kyiv: "The Orthodox Church's statement on a 'Christmas truce' is a cynical trap and propaganda," tweeted Ukrainian presidential adviser Mikhail Podolyak. In response to Vladimir Putin's announcement, he said there would only be a "temporary truce" when Russia leaves the occupied territories. Podolyak, one of the closest figures to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, responded to Putin's announcement on Twitter. "First. Ukraine does not attack foreign territories or kill civilians. As does RF (Russian Federation). Ukraine destroys only the members of the occupying army on its territory... Second. RF must leave the occupied territories; only then it will have a 'temporary truce'. Keep hypocrisy to yourself," he tweeted. The Russian Orthodox Church acts as a "propagandist" for the war, Zelensky's adviser said. He added that the institution incites the genocide of Ukrainians and the militarization of Russian society. That is why, this morning, Podolyak concluded that Cyril I's statements on the ceasefire are a "cynical trap and an element of propaganda".
Finally, on Thursday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he had "no indication that President Putin has changed his plans and objectives in Ukraine". Stoltenberg also added that "it is dangerous to underestimate Russia", underlining its "great willingness to tolerate losses and suffering".