Putin calls for Ukraine cease-fire to mark Russian Orthodox Christmas

Russian President Vladimir Putin has instructed his military to observe a Christmas cease-fire in Ukraine for 36 hours and called on Kyiv to do the same, the Kremlin said Thursday, a move that Ukraine appeared to swiftly reject.

Ukraine indicated it wouldn’t support a cease fire for Russian Orthodox Christmas, which is celebrated on Saturday, and has long viewed suggestions of a truce as favoring Moscow.

“First. Ukraine doesn’t attack foreign territory and doesn’t kill civilians. As [Russia] does. Ukraine destroys only members of the occupation army on its territory…,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter after Putin’s announcement . “Second. [Russia] must leave the occupied territories — only then will it have a “temporary truce.” Keep hypocrisy to yourself.”

Putin instructed his defense minister to institute a cease-fire “along the entire line of contact between the parties in Ukraine” starting at midday local time (4 a.m. ET) on Friday, the Kremlin said in a statement posted on Telegram. The proposed Christmas truce would last until midnight local time (4 p.m. ET) on Saturday.

Ukrainian officials earlier dismissed the idea when it was raised by Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church who enjoys a close association with the government and has provided a kind of spiritual cover for the invasion.

Podolyak had dismissed Kirill’s call as “a cynical trap and an element of propaganda.”

The Russian Orthodox Church, which uses the ancient Julian calendar, celebrates Christmas on Jan. 7 — later than the Gregorian calendar. Some Orthodox Christians in Ukraine recently celebrating Christmas on Dec. 25 to show their anger at and defiance of Moscow.

“Based on the fact that a large number of citizens professing Orthodoxy live in the areas of hostilities, we call on the Ukrainian side to declare a ceasefire and give them the opportunity to attend services on Christmas Eve, as well as on the Day of the Nativity of Christ,” Putin said.

Putin’s proposal comes with the war finely poised after 10 months.

His campaign in Ukraine suffered a series of setbacks at the end of last year, with counterattacks by Kyiv’s military forcing retreats from large areas Russia’s military had seized in the east and south of the country.

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for details.

Associated Press contributed.

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