President Vladimir Putin ordered on Friday a 36-hour ceasefire along the line of contact to observe Russia and Ukraine’s Orthodox Christmas, which fell on Saturday. Ukraine had rejected the truce, and there was shelling along the frontline.
A 50-year-old man died in the northeastern region of Kharkiv as a result of Russia’s shelling, Oleh Sinehubov, the governor of the region said on the Telegram messaging app. The news came minutes after midnight in Moscow.
Most Ukrainian Orthodox Christians have traditionally celebrated Christmas on Jan. 7, as have Orthodox Christians in Russia. But this year, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, the country’s largest, allowed also for a Dec. 25 celebration. Still, many observed the holiday on Saturday, flocking into churches and cathedrals.
The Kremlin said that Moscow will press ahead with what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine and which Kyiv and its Western allies call an unprovoked aggression to grab land.
“The tasks set by the president (Putin) for the special military operation will still be fulfilled,” the Russian state TASS agency quoted Putin’s first deputy chief of staff, Sergei Kiriyenko, as saying.
“And there definitely will be a victory.”
There is no end in sight to the war, now in its 11th month, which has killed thousands, displaced millions and turned Ukrainian cities into rubble.
Ukrainian officials also reported blasts in regions that make up the broader Donbas region – the war’s frontline where fighting has been raging for months.
Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of the Donetsk region in Ukraine, said that there were nine missile strikes on the region overnight, including seven on the battered city of Kramatorsk. According to preliminary information, there were no casualties.
Blasts were also heard in the city of Zaporizhzhia, the administrative centre of the Zaporizhzhia region, a local official said, without giving any immediate report on damage or casualties.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Wednesday that Russia is planning a major new offensive. The Pentagon said on Friday that Putin’s aim of seizing Ukrainian territory has not changed, even if his military continues to suffer blows.
There’s been growing concerns that Belarus – a staunch backer of Moscow – could be used as a staging post to attack Ukraine from the north after increasing military activity in the country and fresh transfer of Russian troops there.
Unofficial Telegram channels monitoring military activity in Belarus reported late on Saturday that some 1,400-1,600 Russian troops arrived from Russia into the northeastern city of Vitebsk in Belarus over the past two days.
Reuters was not able to independently verify the information.
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