- Ukraine describes Putin’s order of the Orthodox Christmas truce as a hoax
- The Russian envoy to the United Nations says that Ukraine is not being respected
- Kyiv acquires American Bradley and German Marder combat vehicles
KYIV/Bakhmut, Ukraine (Reuters) – Ukraine rejected a unilateral order by Russia for a 36-hour ceasefire starting on Friday and the leaders of the United States and Germany said they were sending armored fighting vehicles at once. to the Kyiv government.
US officials said the US arms package, which will be announced on Friday, is expected to include about 50 Bradley Fighting Vehicles as part of security assistance totaling about $2.8 billion.
“Right now, the war in Ukraine is at a tipping point,” US President Joe Biden told reporters. We must do everything we can to help Ukrainians resist Russian aggression.”
Germany will provide Marder infantry fighting vehicles, according to a joint statement Thursday from Biden and Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
She added that the two countries agreed to train Ukrainian soldiers on how to use them. Germany would also supply a Patriot air defense battery to Ukraine, which has had some battlefield successes since Russian forces invaded last February, but has asked allies for heavier weapons.
Suggestion of truth
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has rejected a Russian order on a truce on the occasion of Russian Orthodox Christmas starting at noon on Friday and ending at midnight on Saturday. He said stopping the advance of Ukrainian forces in the eastern Donbass region and bringing in more Russian forces was a ruse.
“Now they want to use Christmas as a cover, if only for a short time, to stop the advance of our boys in the Donbass and bring equipment, ammunition and forces massed near our positions,” Zelensky said in his video address on Thursday night.
“What would that give them? Just another increase in their total losses.”
Biden noted that Putin’s cease-fire offer was a sign of desperation. “I think he’s trying to find some oxygen,” he told reporters at the White House.
Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, responded on Facebook, saying, “Washington is determined to fight with us ‘until the last Ukrainian’.”
On the decision to send Bradley, he urged Washington to consider “the possible consequences of such a dangerous course.”
The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on January 7. Ukraine’s main Orthodox Church has recognized itself as independent since 2019 and rejects any notion of loyalty to the Patriarch of Moscow. Many Ukrainian believers have changed their calendar to celebrate Christmas on December 25th as is the case in the West.
Zelensky, speaking clearly in Russian rather than Ukrainian, said that ending the war meant “an end to the aggression of your country…and the war will end either when your soldiers leave or we expel them.”
Dmitry Polyansky, the head of Russia’s permanent mission to the UN, wrote on Twitter that Ukraine’s reaction was “another reminder of who we’re fighting with in #Ukraine – ruthless nationalist criminals… who don’t respect sacred things.”
There is no peace
In a phone call with Zelensky on Thursday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government was ready to take on the tasks of mediation and moderation to secure a lasting peace between Russia and Ukraine.
The Kremlin said Putin separately told Erdogan on Thursday that Russia was open to dialogue on Ukraine but that Kyiv would have to accept losing territory claimed by Russia.
Speaking at an event in Lisbon, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he believes the warring parties are “far from the moment when serious peace negotiations can take place”.
The war, which Putin has described as a “special military operation” to protect his country’s security, has displaced millions, killed thousands of civilians and left Ukrainian cities, towns and villages in ruins.
In an update on Thursday, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office said at least 452 children have been killed and 877 children injured in the conflict.
In the capital Kyiv and the eastern city of Kramatorsk, people trying to go about their daily lives during the war have rejected Putin’s call for a ceasefire.
“Look, we had a Catholic Christmas, and the fighting continued,” said Valery, 30, in Kramatorsk, adding that his town had three or four casualties on New Year’s Eve alone.
“The fighting never stops, neither on holidays nor on weekends. Do you trust him? No.”
“We were bombed like this on New Year’s Eve. I think it’s just hypocrisy on Putin’s part,” said Natalia Shkolka, 52, in Kyiv.
The fiercest fighting continues in eastern Ukraine, with the worst near the eastern city of Bakhmut.
Ukraine says Russia has lost thousands of soldiers despite holding scant territory in months of futile attacks on Bakhmut.
Closer to the front, Reuters saw explosions from artillery shells and smoke filling the sky.
“We’re stopping. The guys are trying to hold back,” said Victor, a 39-year-old Ukrainian soldier driving an armored vehicle from Soledar, a salt-mining town on the northeastern outskirts of Bakhmut.
A White House official said the United States believes that Yevgeny Prigozhin, an ally of Putin who is the founder of a powerful mercenary group, wants to take control of salt and gypsum from mines near Bakhmut.
Reuters buruax report; Writing by Grant McCall and Stephen Coates; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Michael Berry
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