Ukraine: Kyiv dismisses Putin’s call for ceasefire as ‘hypocrisy’

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Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his defense minister to implement a temporary ceasefire in Ukraine for 36 hours this week to allow Orthodox Christians to attend Christmas services, according to a Kremlin statement Thursday. The proposal was swiftly dismissed as “hypocrisy” by Ukrainian officials.

Putin’s order came after the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, called for a ceasefire between January 6 and January 7, when many Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas.

Ukrainian officials voiced skepticism about the temporary ceasefire, saying Moscow just wanted a pause to gather reserves, equipment and ammunition.

Serhiy Haidai, head of the Luhansk regional military administration, told Ukrainian television: “Regarding this truce – they just want to get some kind of a pause for a day or two, to pull even more reserves, bring some more ammo.”

“Russia cannot be trusted. Not a single word they say,” Haidai added.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak responded on Twitter by saying that Russia must leave “occupied territories” in Ukraine before any “temporary truce.”

“First. Ukraine doesn’t attack foreign territory and doesn’t kill civilians. As RF [Russian Federation] does … Second. RF must leave the occupied territories – only then will it have a ‘temporary truce’. Keep hypocrisy to yourself,” Podolyak said.

The full statement from the Kremlin read: “Taking into account the appeal of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, I instruct the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation to introduce from 12:00 January 6, 2023 until 24:00 January 7, 2023, a ceasefire along the entire line of contact between the parties in Ukraine.

“Based on the fact that a large number of citizens professing Orthodoxy live in the combat areas, we call on the Ukrainian side to declare a ceasefire and give them the opportunity to attend services on Christmas Eve, as well as on the Day of the Nativity of Christ.”

Kirill has been a vocal supporter of Russia’s war in Ukraine, and gave a sermon in September in which he said that “military duty washes away all sins.”

The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church has also been locked in a feud with Pope Francis, who has described the invasion of Ukraine as Russian “expansionism and imperialism.”

Primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan of Kyiv and Ukraine Epifanii heads the divine liturgy at St Michael's Golden-Domed Cathedral in Kyiv on Christmas, December 7, 2021.

And in May, the Pope urged Patriarch Kirill not to “become Putin’s altar boy.”

In November, a branch of Ukraine’s Orthodox church announced that it would allow its churches to celebrate Christmas on December 25, rather than January 7, as is traditional in Orthodox congregations.

The announcement by the Kyiv-headquartered Orthodox Church of Ukraine widened the rift between the Russian Orthodox Church and other Orthodox believers.

In recent years a large part of the Orthodox community in Ukraine has moved away from Moscow, a movement accelerated by the conflict Russia stoked in eastern Ukraine beginning in 2014.

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