- Putin ordered the ceasefire to begin at noon on Friday
- Ukraine says there is no ceasefire until the invaders leave
- Both sides make it clear that there are no peace talks anytime soon
KYIV, Jan 5 (Reuters) – Ukraine rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offer for a 36-hour ceasefire on Orthodox Christmas, saying the ceasefire would not last until Russia withdraws its occupation forces from occupied territory.
The Kremlin said Putin ordered the cease-fire from noon on Friday after Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, called for a Christmas truce.
“Taking into account the request of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, I instruct the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation to introduce a ceasefire regime in full contact with the parties in Ukraine on January 6, 2023 from 12:00 to 24:00 on January 7, 2023,” Putin said in the order.
“We call on the Ukrainian side to declare a ceasefire and allow them to participate in services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as a large number of citizens professing Orthodoxy live in hostile areas,” Putin said. .
But Mykhailo Podoliak, an adviser to the Ukrainian president, tweeted in response that Russia should “leave the occupied territories – only then will there be a ‘temporary ceasefire’. Keep the hypocrisy to yourself.”
Unlike Russia, he said, Ukraine does not attack foreign territories or kill civilians, only “members of the occupying army on its borders”.
Podoliak had previously dismissed Grill’s fight as “a cynical trap and an element of propaganda”. He described the Russian Orthodox Church, which supported the invasion, as a “war propagandist” who instigated the “mass slaughter” of Ukrainians and the militarization of Russia.
Ukraine has previously rejected any Russian call for a ceasefire, an attempt by Moscow to give some respite to its troops, which Ukraine has been trying to force out of territory seized by force since Russia’s invasion last February.
The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on January 7. Ukraine’s main Orthodox Church has rejected the Moscow patriarch’s authority, and many Ukrainian believers have changed their calendars and celebrated Christmas in the West on December 25.
Earlier on Thursday, Russia and Ukraine made it clear there would be no peace talks between them anytime soon, effectively rejecting the possibility of mediation by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who spoke separately to both Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The Kremlin said Putin had told Erdogan that Moscow was ready to negotiate — but only on the condition that Ukraine “take into account new regional realities” and acknowledge Moscow’s annexation of Ukrainian territory.
Ukraine’s Podoliak called the demand “completely unacceptable.”
“Under the word ‘talks’ the Russian Federation (Putin) recognizes Ukraine and the world’s ‘right to occupy foreign territories’ and ‘fix the lack of legal consequences for mass killings abroad,'” he wrote on Twitter.
Ten months after Putin ordered an invasion of his neighbor and seized Ukrainian territory, Russia and Ukraine have entered the new year in a tense diplomatic situation.
After major battlefield victories in the second half of 2022, Kyiv increasingly believes it can drive Russian invaders from its land.
Putin, for his part, has shown no desire to discuss giving up his territorial gains despite mounting losses among his troops after ordering the first call-up of reserve units since World War II.
The Turkish president’s office said Erdogan told Putin on Thursday that a ceasefire was needed to end the conflict, and that Turkey was ready to serve as a mediator for a final peace.
Erdogan has acted as a mediator in the past, most notably helping to broker a UN-backed deal that lifted a ban on Ukrainian ports shipping grain, and spoke to both Putin and Zelensky several times a day by phone.
Reuters reporting by Peter Graff; Editing by Andrew Heavens
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