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White House Rejects Putin’s Christmas Truce As But A “Cynical Ploy”

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White House Rejects Putin's Christmas Truce As But A "Cynical Ploy"

Update(1553ET): The White House has rejected Putin's call for a Christmas truce in Ukraine. The Russian leader earlier in the day ordered a unilateral 36-hour ceasefire for his forces starting Friday, which will still apparently be in effect despite Ukraine rejecting it. Presumably Russian forces have been told to cease firing along the line of contact starting on Orthodox Christmas Eve day (Friday), unless they are fired upon from the Ukrainian side.

The Biden administration cast it as a "cynical ploy" in order for Russian forces to regroup. Biden himself said the ceasefire proposal isn't "serious" - as The Hill cites of the president's words:

President Biden said Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call for a temporary, Christmas ceasefire is an effort to "find some oxygen," dismissing that the Kremlin is serious about finding an off ramp for its assault against Ukraine.  

The president said he was "reluctant to respond to anything Putin says," but characterized the Kremlin as cynically attacking civilians over the December holidays.  

"He was ready to bomb hospitals and nurseries and church’s on the 25th and New Years — I mean, I think he’s trying to find some oxygen," Biden added.

At the State Department, spokesman Ned Price called Putin's Christmas truce declaration a "cynical ploy… to rest, to refit, to regroup, and ultimately to re-attack, to re-attack with potentially even more vengeance, even more brutality, even more lethality, if they had their way."

The majority of the populations in both countries are adherents of the Orthodox Church, with Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox Christians traditionally celebrating Christmas on Jan. 7th. 

Germany was earlier in the day among the first Western countries to reject Putin's announcement as inauthentic. And yet, ironically enough, calls have rang out from the West for months since the start of the conflict for Russian troops to cease fighting. 

One would think that any pause in fighting, however temporary, would be welcomed by the West - but alas not.

* * *

Update (1109ET): Within a mere hour after President Putin declared there would be a 36-hour ceasefire for all Russian forces along the line of contact in observation of Orthodox Christmas, Zelensky's office has issued a firm rejection, calling it "hypocrisy" and demanding that all Russian troops must leave occupied territory immediately.

Zelensky advisor Mykhailo Podolyak announced on Twitter, that Russian forces...

must leave the occupied territories - only then will it have a "temporary truce". Keep hypocrisy to yourself.

He had earlier responded to Russian Orthodox Church leader Patriarch Kirill by calling the proposed Christmas ceasefire "a trap". 

Ukrainian officials are also calling this a ploy for Russian forces to regroup and to take the momentum out of the Ukrainian army counteroffensive, which has been making some gains of late.

* * *

Update (1015ET): Shortly after Erdogan spoke with Putin this morning, the Russian leader has ordered a temporary cease-fire in Ukraine Friday and Saturday to mark Orthodox Christmas.

The statement from the Kremlin cites earlier appeal from Patriarch Kirill for ceasefire over the holiday. Russian Orthodox Church leader Patriarch Kirill had previously said in a statement posted to the church's official website: 

"I, Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and of all Rus, appeal to all parties involved in the internecine conflict with a call to cease fire and establish a Christmas truce from 12:00 on January 6 to 00:00 on January 7 so that Orthodox people can attend services on Christmas Eve and on the day of the Nativity of Christ."

There’s been no response so far from Ukrainian officials.

  • KREMLIN: RUSSIA TO ANNOUNCE TRUCE IN UKRAINE FROM 1200 JAN.6 TO 2400 JAN.7 - IFX
  • KREMLIN: RUSSIA CALLS ON UKRAINIAN SIDE TO DECLARE A CEASEFIRE AND ALLOW PEOPLE TO ATTEND SERVICES ON CHRISTMAS EVE, AS WELL AS ON CHRISTMAS DAY - IFX

Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7th, and is a major holiday just as in the West during December (the Orthodox Church's Julian calendar December 25 falls on January 7 on the West's Gregorian calendar).

Bloomberg has meanwhile hinted at a negative response from Ukrainian leaders, given their initial reaction to Patriarch Kirill's Christmas truce call: 

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his forces to cease fighting in Ukraine for 36 hours starting Friday at noon, Moscow time, in what appeared to be a rare sign of conciliation in an invasion that’s heading for its second year.

The Kremlin said Putin gave the order Thursday for Russian Orthodox Christmas. It follows an appeal by the patriarch of that church, which has close ties to the Kremlin. Ukrainian officials denounced that as a trap. Kyiv has demanded Russia remove its troops from Ukraine as a condition for any ceasefire.

This was the reaction of a Zelensky advisor to Patriarch Kirill's ceasefire call, in reference to the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC):

*  *  *

As we detailed earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Russian leader Vladimir Putin in a Thursday phone call to implement a unilateral ceasefire in order to jumpstart negotiations toward ending the war with Ukraine. "President Erdogan said that calls for peace and negotiations should be supported by a unilateral ceasefire and a vision for a fair solution," a statement from his office said.

Erdogan said future peace talks should be guided by a "vision for a fair solution"; however, the Russian leader repeated his red line and ultimately what it will take to get Moscow to the negotiating table: Kiev must give up the annexed territories in the east

Damaged church in Ukraine, via EPA

Putin stressed in the call that Ukraine must acknowledge "new territorial realities" for talks to happen. Additionally the Russian president "acknowledged the destructive role of the West, pumping weapons into Kyiv, providing information and guidance," according to a Kremlin statement.

Erdogan is expected to also hold a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky later on Thursday. Zelensky has of late stressed that Ukraine will not make any territorial concessions for the sake of peace and reiterated his country's stance that no talks can happen until all Russian troops withdraw to their pre-Feb.24 positions. 

Turkey has vowed to continue strengthening infrastructure that facilitates the grain export deal out of the Black Sea . The grain deal has been the only successfully negotiated major agreement of the war thus far which has actually held (in addition to various prisoner swaps). 

Also on Thursday, a call for peace was issued by Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, who is urging both sides to observe a Christmas ceasefire

Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7th, and is a major holiday just as in the West during December (the Orthodox Church's Julian calendar December 25 falls on January 7 on the West's Gregorian calendar).

Patriarch Kirill said in a statement posted to the church's official website: 

"I, Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and of all Rus, appeal to all parties involved in the internecine conflict with a call to cease fire and establish a Christmas truce from 12:00 on January 6 to 00:00 on January 7 so that Orthodox people can attend services on Christmas Eve and on the day of the Nativity of Christ."

While the majority of churches and people inside Ukraine still have ties to the Russian Orthodox Church, the Ukrainian government has unleashed a crackdown, seeking to hand these churches over to a local church hierarchy that Moscow sees as schismatic. Kirill early in the war generated controversy by appearing to support the invasion amid calls from the West for him to condemn it as the seniormost clergyman in Russia.

If the Russian church's call for a Christmas truce is observed and holds, it could increase the chances of the two sides eventually seeking a more permanent ceasefire and negotiated settlement. But as is stands now, given Ukrainian forces have over the past months seen battlefield successes, this possibility still looks remote.

Tyler Durden Thu, 01/05/2023 - 15:53

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