Hours after announcing a 36-hour ceasefire for Orthodox Christmas, the first major truce of the more than 10-month-long war that has killed tens of thousands, Russian strikes rocked the eastern part of Ukraine.
On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a ceasefire to observe a Christmas truce. Many Orthodox Christians, including those living in Russia and Ukraine, celebrate Christmas on January 6 and 7. The truce was suppose to last 36 hours, but air raid sirens are ringing around following the airstrike.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had already questioned the Kremlin’s intentions, accusing it of planning the fighting pause “to continue the war with renewed vigour.”
“Now they want to use Christmas as a cover to stop the advance of our guys in the [eastern] Donbas [region] for a while and bring equipment, ammunition and mobilized people closer to our positions,” Zelenskyy said late Thursday.
He did not, however, state outright that Kyiv would ignore Putin’s request.
US President Joe Biden echoed Zelenskyy’s wariness, saying it was “interesting” that Putin was ready to bomb hospitals, nurseries and churches on Christmas and New Year’s.
“I think [Putin] is trying to find some oxygen,” Biden said, without elaborating.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington had “little faith in the intentions behind this announcement,” adding that Kremlin officials ”have given us no reason to take anything that they offer at face value.”
The truce order seems to be a ploy “to rest, refit, regroup, and ultimately re-attack,” he said.
The Institute for the Study of War agreed that the truce could be a ruse allowing Russia to regroup.
“Such a pause would disproportionately benefit Russian troops and begin to deprive Ukraine of the initiative,” the think tank said late Thursday.
“Putin cannot reasonably expect Ukraine to meet the terms of this suddenly declared cease-fire and may have called for the cease-fire to frame Ukraine as unaccommodating and unwilling to take the necessary steps toward negotiations,” it added.