Russia President Vladimir Putin on Thursday allegedly called on Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to order a ceasefire in Ukraine in observation of Orthodox Christmas.
“Given 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 between the parties in Ukraine from 12:00 on January 6 to 24:00 on January 7,” a statement from the Kremlin chief said according to Russian media outlet RIA.
According to Putin, the Russian Orthodox bishop called for a Christmas truce so that the “Orthodox people can attend services on Christmas Eve and on the day of the Nativity of Christ.”
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has yet to publicly comment following Putin’s order, but an adviser from his office described the ceasefire calls from the Russian Orthodox Church earlier in the day as a “cynical trap.”
“[The] ROC is not an authority for global Orthodoxy and acts as a ‘war propagandist’,” Mykhailo Podolyak said according to the Ukrainian state-owned news agency Ukinform. “ROC called for the genocide of Ukrainians, incited mass murder and insists on even greater militarization of [the Russian Federation].
“Thus, ROC’s statement about ‘Christmas truce’ is a cynical trap and an element of propaganda,” the statement added.
In a call with Putin earlier in the day, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan backed the bishop’s comments and urged the Russian president to implement a “unilateral ceasefire” and find a “vision for a fair solution.”
The ceasefire order is the first Putin has called for since the war began and comes just two days after Zelenskyy cautioned that Russia was preparing for a major offensive in an attempt to “turn the tide” in the war.
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Zelenskyy said Russia would “throw everything they have” at Ukrainian forces fighting to oust Russian troops from five Ukrainian regions.
Additionally, Putin in December ordered his defense officials to overhaul his war effort by reinforcing troops with supplies and equipment they need on the front lines, bolstering missile stockpiles and by making Russia’s “nuclear triad” combat ready.
Russia expert and former DIA intelligence officer for Russian Doctrine & Strategy Rebekah Koffler echoed the comments made by Zelenskyy’s office Thursday and said the order “is a set-up.”
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“Putin knows that Ukrainians would be suspicious of the ceasefire and would continue operations,” she told Fox News Digital, noting that Russian forces would do the same. “Once Ukrainians reject the ceasefire, the Russians will portray them as Godless.
“It’s a classic checkmate by Putin – Zelenskyy would lose either way,” she explained.
Check back on this developing story.