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Putin Calls 36-Hour Ukraine Ceasefire


FILE: Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a news conference in Moscow, Russia. Taken December 22, 2022.
FILE: Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a news conference in Moscow, Russia. Taken December 22, 2022.

UPDATED AGAIN WITH COMMENTS FROM GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER BAERBOCK AND TURKISH PRESIDENT ERDOGAN: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday ordered a 36-hour ceasefire in Ukraine over Eastern Rite Christmas, the first major truce of the more than 10-month long war that has killed tens of thousands and devastated swathes of Ukraine.

Putin ordered the ceasefire to begin on Jan. 6, the Kremlin said. Many Eastern Rite Catholics, including those living in Russia and Ukraine, celebrate Christmas on Jan. 6-7.

"Taking into account the appeal of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, I instruct the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation to introduce a ceasefire regime along the entire line of contact of the parties in Ukraine from 12.00 on January 6, 2023 to 24.00 on January 7, 2023," Putin said in the order.

"Proceeding from the fact that a large number of citizens professing Orthodoxy live in the areas of hostilities, we call on the Ukrainian side to declare a ceasefire and allow them to attend services on Christmas Eve, as well as on Christmas Day," Putin also stated.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow called earlier on Thursday for both sides of the war in Ukraine to observe a Christmas truce.

Ukraine earlier dismissed Kirill's appeal, though there was no immediate reaction to Putin's ceasefire announcement.

A senior aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Mykhailo Podolyak, cast the Russian Orthodox Church as a "war propagandist" that had incited the "mass murder" of Ukrainians and the militarization of Russia.

"The statement of the Russian Orthodox Church about the 'Christmas Truce' is a cynical trap and an element of propaganda," he said.

Russia "must leave the occupied territories - only then will it have a 'temporary truce'. Keep hypocrisy to yourself," Podolyak wrote on Twitter in reaction to the Kremlin announcement.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday pressed Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to declare a "unilateral" ceasefire in Ukraine.

Erdogan spoke to both Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in his latest attempts to broker an end to the 10-month war.

He told Putin that "calls for peace and negotiations should be supported by a unilateral ceasefire and a vision for a fair solution," Erdogan's office said.

But he made no mention of a "unilateral" ceasefire in his subsequent talks with the Ukrainian leader.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Thursday slammed a ceasefire ordered by Russia in Ukraine and said if President Vladimir Putin really wanted peace "he would bring his soldiers home".

"A so-called ceasefire brings neither freedom nor security to people living in daily fear under Russian occupation," Baerbock wrote on Twitter.

This report was prepared using data from Reuters and Agence France-Presse.