(Kyiv) Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday ordered his forces to implement a ceasefire in Ukraine on January 6-7 on the occasion of Orthodox Christmas, after a request to do so from Patriarch Kirill, said the Kremlin.
“In view of the appeal of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, I instruct the Russian Defense Minister to introduce a ceasefire regime along the entire line of contact between the parties in Ukraine from 12 p.m. on January 6 of this year until noon on January 7,” Putin said in the Kremlin statement.
The Russian president also called on the Ukrainian forces to respect this truce in order to give the possibility to the Orthodox, the majority faith in Ukraine as in Russia, “to attend services on Christmas Eve, as well as on the day of the Nativity of Christ. “.
This ceasefire, the first major since the start of the Russian offensive in Ukraine in February, comes after a request to that effect from the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Kirill, a close supporter of Vladimir Putin.
An adviser to the Ukrainian presidency, Mykhaïlo Podoliak, on Thursday called the announcement “hypocrisy”, calling on Moscow troops to leave the country.
“Russia must leave the occupied territories, only then will there be a ‘temporary truce’. Keep your hypocrisy,” he wrote on Twitter.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also urged Mr. Putin in a phone call on Thursday to put in place a “unilateral ceasefire” in Ukraine.
“Calls for peace and negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv should be backed by a unilateral ceasefire,” Turkey’s head of state told Putin in a telephone interview, according to a statement. forwarded by the Turkish Presidency.
Mr. Putin replied that Russia was ready for a “serious dialogue” with Ukraine provided that the latter complied with Russian demands and accepted the “new territorial realities” born of the invasion of that country in February.
Moscow claimed in September the annexation of four regions occupied at least partially by its army in Ukraine, despite a series of military setbacks on the ground, and on the pattern of that of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in March 2014.
President Volodymyr Zelensky for his part refuses to negotiate with Vladimir Putin, insisting on the objective of the return of all the occupied territories to Kyiv by military means.
During his discussions with Mr. Erdogan, Mr. Putin also once again denounced the “destructive role of Western countries” in the conflict because of their arms deliveries, crucial for the Ukrainian war effort. .
The Russian head of state accused the West of “feeding the Kyiv regime with weapons and military equipment and providing it with operational and targeting information”.
A member of NATO, Turkey has not associated itself with the sanctions against Russia and is trying to maintain a position of mediator between Kyiv and Moscow. It thus played a key role in particular in the agreement allowing the export of Ukrainian cereals.
In Russia, it was the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Kirill, close to Vladimir Putin, who called for a truce on the occasion of the Orthodox Christmas celebration, celebrated on Saturday.
“I, Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, address all parties involved in the fratricidal conflict to call on them to establish a ceasefire and seal a Christmas truce,” he said. he stated in a message posted on the Church’s website.
According to him, this truce should allow the Orthodox to be able to “attend the services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day” in Ukraine.
However, this message is likely to have little impact in Ukraine, where the influence of the Moscow Patriarchate has faded in recent years, this country having in particular endowed itself in 2018-2019 with a Church independent of religious supervision. of Russia.
And the Church which had remained loyal to Moscow severed its ties with Russia in May, even if several of its dignitaries remain accused of pro-Russian positions.
Freed Russian prisoners
The truce comes after a Ukrainian strike on New Year’s Eve that left at least 89 dead in Makiivka, eastern Ukraine. A particularly deadly bombardment that the Russian army had to recognize, extremely rare, and which aroused criticism in Russia against the Russian military command.
According to the Russian press, the building reduced to dust by a HIMARS strike, a weapon supplied by the United States, housed hundreds of mobilized, therefore non-professional soldiers.
On the front in Ukraine, fighting continued on Thursday, particularly in Bakhmout, a city that Russian troops supported by mercenaries from the Wagner group have been trying to take since the summer, at the cost of great destruction and heavy apparent losses on both sides. .
According to the daily report of the Ukrainian presidency, five people have been killed and eight injured in the past 24 hours. Among the dead is a sapper killed during a demining operation near Kharkiv (north-east).
The boss of the Wagner group, the sulphurous businessman Evguéni Prigojine, meanwhile announced Thursday the first amnesties for Russian prisoners who agreed to fight in Ukraine and in particular in Bakhmout.
On Tuesday, Mr. Prigojine assured that the Russian forces sometimes fought there “several weeks for each house”, transformed into “fortresses”.