Ukraine has rejected a temporary ceasefire proposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader has asked Ukraine to comply with a 36-hour ceasefire to mark Orthodox Christmas, but Kyiv has refused to reciprocate.
Putin ordered Sergei Shoigu, the Russian defense minister, to impose the ceasefire and command troops to cease fighting over Christmas Day, which is celebrated on January 7th by Russian Orthodox Christians as well as by many Ukrainian Orthodox.
The ceasefire is scheduled to start at 12:00 am Moscow time but will mean little now that Kyiv has rejected the temporary pause in fighting.
Ceasefire in Ukraine?
A statement issued by the Kremlin says that Putin agreed to a ceasefire after hearing an appeal from the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill. The Russian church leader reportedly urged the President to consider a temporary truce to allow Orthodox Christians to celebrate Christmas and pray.
The Kremlin’s statement says: “Taking into consideration the appeal by [Kirill], the president hereby instructs the minister of defense of the Russian Federation to impose a ceasefire regime along the entire line of contact in Ukraine.”
According to the statement, Putin wants the ceasefire to take place so that “large numbers of Orthodox believers [who] reside in areas where hostilities are taking place” have an opportunity to honor the Christmas period.
In December, Putin hinted at the possibility of peace talks and said that Russia was “ready to negotiate with everyone involved about acceptable solutions.” However, he blamed Ukraine and the West for “refusing to negotiate.”
Ukraine has rejected the proposed ceasefire. Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, commented on Twitter that Russia’s “current ‘unilateral ceasefire’ can not and should not be taken seriously.”
Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian politician who serves as an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, called the proposed ceasefire an act of “hypocrisy.”
Podolyak tweeted that a “temporary truce” would only be possible if all Russian forces “leave the occupied territories.” He later added that Russia’s proposal was a “propaganda gesture” intended to make Russia seem more “humanistic” in the eyes of the West.
“I’m reluctant to respond [to] anything Putin says,” the US President commented. “I found it interesting. He was ready to bomb hospitals and nurseries and churches on the 25th and [on] New Year.”
Tatiana Stanovaya, the founder of R.Politik and a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment, has said that Putin’s ceasefire proposal could serve at least two Russian objectives.
According to R.Politik, it serves a propagandistic purpose in that Putin is seeking to portray a version of events wherein Russia “acts on the good side of history and fights for justice.”
Stanovaya and R.Politik also suspect that the Kremlin is anxious to avoid a significant military disaster on Christmas Day, following a major strike by Ukraine against Russian troops on New Year’s Day.
R.Politik assessed that the ceasefire is “partly a consequence of Ukraine destroying the technical college in Makiivka on New Year’s Eve, which resulted in dozens or hundreds of Russian casualties, most of which were recently mobilized.”