Shells fly at the Ukraine front despite Putin’s truce. At the front line in Ukraine on Friday, Russian and Ukrainian forces exchanged artillery fire despite Moscow saying it had ordered its troops to stop shooting for a unilateral truce.
At noon on Friday, President Vladimir Putin ordered a 36-hour truce in honor of Orthodox Christmas. Kyiv has rejected the purported ceasefire as a stunt by Moscow to buy time to reinforce troops that have taken heavy losses this week and have stated that it has no intention of stopping the fighting.
Russia’s defense ministry said that at noon Moscow time (0900 GMT), Russian troops “along the entire line of contact” were honoring the ceasefire. Still, Ukraine continued to shell civilian areas and military positions.
Reporters for Reuters were embedded with Ukrainian troops in eastern Ukraine when they heard explosions that they were told were Russian rocket fire. According to the Ukrainians, the front was tranquil that day, not because of a ceasefire but because the snow made it difficult to fly drones and spot targets for artillery.
A quick assessment of whether or not the level of violence had decreased in other areas was not possible.
One eyewitness in Russian-controlled Donetsk, the regional capital, near the front, described outgoing artillery fire from pro-Russian positions on the outskirts of the city after the truce was supposed to take effect.
According to the mayor, the Ukrainian city Kramatorsk, located close to the eastern frontline, had rockets strike a residential building in the preceding hours, damaging 14 homes but causing no casualties. Locals reported several explosions.
The attack on the supermarket prompted Oleksandr, 36, to exclaim, “It’s bad, very bad,” as he fled the scene. “More air defense systems might help, but first, we must put them under pressure and force them to leave. This is not just a rare occurrence reserved for special events. Approximately once every two days.”
The regional governor said that just before midnight on Friday, Russian forces shelled a fire department in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, killing one rescue worker and injuring four others. Reuters did not immediately confirm this.
Putin unexpectedly called for a ceasefire in the ten-month conflict on Thursday, with the agreement lasting until the end of Russian Orthodox Christmas on Saturday.
The True Meaning of Christmas Used as a Pretext
However, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine dismissed the ceasefire as a Russian ploy to buy more time after suffering devastating setbacks on the front lines.
Zelensky said in his video address broadcast that night that the enemy was planning to use Christmas as a temporary diversion to halt the advances of our boys while bringing supplies, ammunition and mobilized troops closer to our positions.
Russia has recently suffered heavy losses, with the deadliest incident of the war for its troops being acknowledged as occurring on New Year’s Eve.
State-run TASS news agency in Russia reported that Russian-backed officials accused Ukraine of shelling Donetsk with artillery shortly after the ceasefire was supposed to take effect.
Officials with pro-Russian sympathies have said they will not stop fighting if Ukraine does. On Thursday, Donetsk’s newly installed Russian leader Denis Pushilin said that his forces would retaliate if they came under fire and that Putin’s order only applied to offensive actions.
The Russian-appointed administrator of Ukraine’s Kherson region, Vladimir Saldo, called the ceasefire a “gesture of goodwill” but said it wouldn’t change the situation on the front lines.
Orthodox Christmas celebrations began with a church service at Kyiv’s St. Michael’s Cathedral on December 7, led by the head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
The ceasefire was described as “the usual bullshit” by Andriy Rekhnyuk, a 43-year-old Ukrainian soldier at church.
“And what exactly is this ceasefire? In all likelihood, they need a break, “the Russians, he said. “Put aside the truce and continue fighting. Our triumph, however, will come in the year 2023.”
On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, setting off a conflict that has since claimed the lives of thousands and displaced millions more. While the Ukrainian military, bolstered by Western weapons and aid, has successfully pushed the Russian Federation back from some of its territory, fighting continues in the east and south.
Ukrainian authorities have asked their Western allies for months to send them enough armored fighting vehicles to use in mechanized battles against Russian tanks at the front. This week, they finally got the news.
Germany promised to send over 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles and an advanced Patriot anti-aircraft missile system within three months. As part of a new $US2.8 billion security package, which is set to be unveiled on Friday, Washington will send Bradley Fighting Vehicles. France, meanwhile, has announced its package of armored vehicles.
Ukraine’s General Staff states that Russian forces have failed to take Donetsk region towns over the past day.
The General Staff stated that Ukraine and Russia had launched multiple air strikes over the past day and that “the enemy is concentrating its main efforts on attempts to establish control over the Donetsk region” without success.
US Vice President Joe Biden told reporters at the White House that he believed Putin’s ceasefire offer indicated desperation.
Orthodox Christians in Russia celebrate Christmas on January 7. Many Ukrainian Christians have moved Christmas celebrations to the Western-style 25 December date because the central Ukrainian Orthodox Church has rejected Moscow’s authority.
Zelensky, addressing the Russian audience that evening, spoke to them in Russian rather than Ukrainian. This war will end “when your soldiers leave, or we throw them out,” which means “when your country ends its aggression.”