Russians and Ukrainians celebrate Christmas amid continuing animosity

SITUATION UPDATE – Ukrainians and Russians celebrate Christmas this Saturday, January 7th. Despite the shelling observed, the Russian soldiers ensured that they respected the ceasefire announced by Putin for the event.

Ukraine and Russia celebrate this Saturday, January 7, the Orthodox Christmas holiday amidst the war, while hostilities continue on several fronts despite the unilateral truce decreed by President Vladimir Putin.

Russian truce continued until midnight

As the previous day, the Russian army reassured its intention to continue the ceasefire until midnight Saturday, while lashing out at the continuing Ukrainian artillery fire on its positions. He claimed to have repelled attacks or responded to Ukrainian fire in several places along the front, inflicting casualties on his opponents.

Ukraine has questioned the sincerity of Russia’s truce, saying it was a ruse to buy time. Washington, Paris, London, Berlin and the EU condemned the initiative. Journalists present in Chassiv Iar, in eastern Ukraine, observed the continued bombardment throughout the morning.

In Bakhmout, the epicenter of the fighting further north, AFP had heard of artillery duels on both sides of the front line on Friday, hours after Russia’s unilateral ceasefire was established. However, these shots were of a lower intensity compared to the previous days.

Smoke billows from buildings in Bakhmut, Ukraine on January 7, 2023. CLODAGH KILCOYNE / REUTERS

According to the Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine, two people were killed and 13 injured in Bakhmut on Friday, in a city largely destroyed by fighting and where both sides faced heavy losses. According to Ukrainian authorities, Russian troops also shelled the Kherson (south) region on Friday, killing a rescue worker and wounding seven others.

Chapel struggles at Christmas time

The two countries, which have been at war since February 2022, celebrate the Orthodox Christmas holiday on Saturday, the majority religious in Russia and Ukraine.

On the Russian side, Vladimir Putin attended services alone at the Kremlin church at midnight on Friday, departing from his usual habit of attending liturgies in the provinces or on the outskirts of Moscow. In a message broadcast by the Kremlin on Saturday, the Russian president sent his congratulations to Orthodox Christians, saying that this day is inspiring “good deeds and ideals“. Ecclesiastical organizationsupport our soldiers participating in special military operationssaid the Russian president, using the official Kremlin term for the attack in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends an Orthodox Christmas service at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia on January 7, 2023. SPUTNIK / REUTERS

On the Ukrainian side, hundreds of parishioners attended a historic liturgy on Saturday at the famous Kyiv Cave Lavra monastery, which was previously under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate but passed in December to the fold of the Ukrainian Independent Church. The office was first headed by Metropolitan Epiphany, the head of this Church which was created in 2018-2019 after the split with the Moscow Patriarchate.

We have waited a long time for this sanctuary to be handed over to us. This is a truly historical event, which all Ukrainians have been waiting for“, told AFP Veronika Martyniouk, 19, who conducted the choir. “Each country has its own Church. And we have our own Church – that’s okay, the Ukrainian Church, that’s how it should be“, abounds Oksana Sobko, 47 years old, faithful.

The United States promised three billion dollars

Even if adhered to, the cease-fire set by Vladimir Putin would offer only a 36-hour respite in the high-intensity conflict, which has dragged on for nearly 11 months and whose settlement appears to have made no progress. . The United States, Kyiv’s main backer, on Friday pledged $3 billion in new military aid to Ukraine, which will include the supply of Bradley armored infantry vehicles, personnel carriers and howitzers.

This victorious year has just begun», welcoming the presidency of Ukraine, mentioning that «Siralso includes HIMARS precision missiles and Sea Sparrow anti-aircraft missiles. This announcement follows Germany indicating it will deliver 40 armored vehicles in the first quarter.Marder“Following the lead of France, which announced on Wednesday the upcoming delivery of the AMX-10 RC light battle tank.

Western arms supplies are critical to Kyiv and especially have enabled it to mount an effective counteroffensive that has pushed Russian troops from the Kharkiv region to the northeast and from the city of Kherson to the south. With winter, the front mostly freezes. Ukraine, however, said it was worried about a new Russian attack.

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