Russian president orders ceasefire 

January 6, 2023 - 18:45

TEHRAN- Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared a ceasefire in Ukraine over Orthodox Christmas while expressing Russia's readiness to talks. NATO has rejected the initiatives.

According to the Kremlin, Putin has ordered the country's defense minister to cease fire along the entire line of combat engagement, which has come into effect.

The U.S.-led NATO military alliance has opted to reject the truce, taking measures instead to ship more weapons to the warzone. 

Critics of these arms deliveries say they will only prolong the war.

In a phone call with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Russian leader highlighted "the destructive role of Western countries who have been pumping [Ukraine] with weapons and military hardware as well as providing it with operational information and assigning targets to it," the Kremlin said.

In a statement posted on social media, the Kremlin said the Russian military will observe the 36-hour ceasefire in Ukraine from noon on 6 January to midnight on 7 January. 

Putin's announcement followed a call by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church for both sides of the conflict to cease hostilities in the run-up to and during the Orthodox Christmas holiday.

In a press release, Putin said that taking into account the appeal of the Russian Orthodox Church "I instruct the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation to introduce from 12:00 January 6, 2023, until 24:00 January 7, 2023, a ceasefire along the entire line of contact between the parties in Ukraine.

"Based on the fact that a large number of citizens professing Orthodoxy live in the combat areas, 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."

Many Orthodox Christians, including those living in Russia and Ukraine, celebrate Christmas from 6 to 7 January. 

The move has, however, been rejected by members of the U.S.-led NATO military alliance, the European Union, and Ukraine. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said it would be dangerous to underestimate Russia.

U.S. President Joe Biden reacted to Russia’s ceasefire, saying "I think [President Putin] is trying to find some oxygen."

Russia's ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov, accused the White House of lacking any desire for a political settlement, adding that "even" the unilaterally declared ceasefire was being labeled an attempt to find some oxygen.

"All this means that Washington is set on fighting with us 'to the last Ukrainian,' and the fate of Ukraine's people does not worry the Americans at all," Antonov said in remarks on the embassy's social media platforms.

Meanwhile, Pentagon spokesman, Brigadier General Patrick Ryder, told reporters, “Our focus will continue to be on supporting Ukraine". This is while a senior U.S. administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, says the intense fighting in eastern Ukraine will continue for months to come.

European Council President Charles Michel has also dismissed the ceasefire, while UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly claims the move "will do nothing to advance the prospects for peace."

Reports say the U.S. will soon announce a new $2.8 billion military package to be shipped to the warzone. The new weapons for Ukraine will include about 50 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, U.S. officials have been cited as saying. 

On Wednesday, Biden said that sending these military vehicles, a U.S. Army staple, to Ukraine, was being considered to help fight Russia's invasion.

One senior U.S. official told media outlets that around $800 million of the money will help Ukraine procure weapons.

The funds for the latest military hardware will be from the U.S. Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA) for Ukraine, which allows Washington to transfer weapons from stocks very quickly without congressional approval in response to an emergency.

The package will include an armored vehicle with powerful gunfire, which is manufactured by the British arms company BAE Systems.

The U.S. has been the largest military backer for Kyiv, sending tens of billions of dollars worth of weapons as Europe's biggest war since 1945 grinds on, killing tens of thousands. 

The U.S. has increasingly sent more advanced and complex weapons to Ukraine, including High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS).

Critics say the move is prolonging the war and that Ukrainian forces are not trained sufficiently enough to fire U.S.-made advanced weapons. 

Reports have surfaced that Ukrainian troops have shelled a residential area in the city of Vasilyevka in the region of Zaporizhia, killing six people and injuring 37.

Officials in the region say Ukrainian forces had used a U.S.-supplied HIMARS multiple rocket launcher to carry out the attack.

The city's roughly 13,000 population has been told to stay off the streets and seek shelter. As the fighting rages, attacks are claiming civilian lives from both sides, but with more advanced weapons supplied by the West, Ukrainian attacks in Eastern Ukraine have increased over the past month.

The latest attack follows reports that Ukrainian armed forces destroyed a hospital in the city of Tokmak on Tuesday. 

Moscow has repeatedly accused Ukraine of using HIMARS and other Western-made weapons to target civilians. Kyiv has exchanged similar allegations against Russian forces.

More recently, the Biden administration pledged to send a Patriot missile system to Kyiv.

French President Emmanuel Macron has also told President Zelensky that Kyiv would receive French tanks. Zelensky has said that "we will receive more armored vehicles, including French-made wheeled tanks."

According to reports, citing the Elysee Palace, Macron had promised to supply AMX-10 RC wheeled tanks to Ukraine.

The UK and Germany have also indicated more military equipment will be sent to Ukraine soon.

Ukraine's military intelligence head says the country is planning a major push in the coming months saying attacks will reach "deeper and deeper" inside Russia. Kyrylo Budanov told U.S. news channel ABC News the fighting would likely be "hottest" in March, with Ukraine planning a major push in the spring.

This will come as a major blow to the countries advocating for a peaceful resolution to the conflict who have denounced the Western delivery of arms to the warzone, saying only negotiations will bring peace.

In his call with Turkey's Erdogan, Putin also discussed the prospect of peace negotiations with Ukraine. The Russian president reiterated that Moscow was “open to serious dialogue” with Kyiv.

Turkey has expressed its readiness to mediate a political solution to the conflict.

"Putin reiterated that Russia is open to a serious dialogue, given authorities in Kyiv meet demands that have been repeatedly put forward, with the due account is taken of the new territorial realities," Russian news agency TASS cited the Kremlin as saying.

However, the Ukrainian Security Council has rejected any talks with Russia. The Council Secretary Alexey Danilov said there will be "no talks with Moscow if the latter recognized the new territorial realities."

Erdogan is reported to have told Putin that “calls for peace and negotiations should be supported by a unilateral declaration of ceasefire and a vision of a just solution” to the conflict.

Early last year, meaningful peace talks between the two sides appeared to be on the verge of success, but effectively collapsed in April.

Coincidentally, the peace talks collapsed amid the start of large weapons deliveries by the West to Ukraine, which Russia says will only prolong the war and suffering of Ukrainians.

Anti-war activists say this is a clear example of how the West is not willing to end the fighting in Europe, where the conflict has left many on the continent in poverty as a result of unprecedented inflation levels and a cost-of-living crisis among ordinary households.  

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