the Russian armistice ended, hostilities have not stopped
AFP, published on Saturday 07 January 2023 at 22h00
Ukrainians celebrate Orthodox Christmas on Saturday in the midst of war, sometimes even in underground shelters, and a 36-hour cease-fire declared inconclusively by Vladimir Putin ends without hostilities actually stopping.
“The world can see once again today how untrue all the words spoken at the highest level in Moscow are,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video message released later in the day.
“They talk about an alleged ceasefire… but in fact Russian shells continue to hit Bakhmout (east, editor’s note) and other Ukrainian positions”, he added, asserting that the only solution was “the expulsion of the Russian troops”. invaders from the Ukrainian lands”.
The cease-fire, decided by Moscow from noon Friday, ended at midnight Saturday (21:00 GMT), Ukraine accused the Russian army of not respecting it, and Russia in turn accused Ukraine of preventing its implementation by forcing it to retaliate.
kyiv immediately rejected the Kremlin announcement, still described as “fake” on Saturday by adviser to Ukraine’s president Mykhaïlo Podoliak, saying it was a ruse to buy time. Washington, Paris, London, Berlin and the European Union also condemned Moscow’s “hypocrisy”.
Journalists present in Chassiv Iar, in eastern Ukraine, had actually observed the continued bombing all morning.
In Bakhmout, the epicenter of the fighting further north, AFP heard artillery fire on both sides of the front line on Friday, hours after Russia’s unilateral ceasefire was established. .
This shot had the least amount of intensity compared to previous days.
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.
In the Zaporijjia region (southeast), according to the local government, the UN mission distributing humanitarian aid in Orikhiv was “stuck under enemy fire”.
– Putin alone in the Kremlin –
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. January 7 of the civil (Gregorian) calendar corresponds to December 25 of the old Julian calendar which the Orthodox Church continues to follow, out of step with Catholics since the 16th century.
On the Russian side, Vladimir Putin attended services alone at the Kremlin church at midnight on Friday, forgoing his habit of attending liturgies in public, in the provinces or on the outskirts of Moscow.
In a message released Saturday by the Kremlin, he sent his congratulations to Orthodox Christians.
Church organizations “support our soldiers” fighting in Ukraine, the Russian president said.
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.
“We have been waiting a long time for this shrine to be handed over to us. This is a truly historical event, which all Ukrainians have been waiting for,” Veronika Martyniouk, 19, who leads the choir, told AFP.
“Each country has its own Church. And we have our own – very good, Ukrainian Church, that’s how it should be,” said Oksana Sobko, 47, a believer.
– New military aid –
In Chassiv Iar, near the front, mass was celebrated in the basement rather than in the church, for fear of the bombing. There were only nine parishioners left, the others having fled the city.
“Thank God we are together, that’s all,” said Zinaïda Artioukhina, 62, the only remaining member of the church choir.
Even if adhered to, the cease-fire struck by Vladimir Putin would offer only a 36-hour respite in the high-intensity conflict, which has lasted nearly 11 months.
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.
The announcement follows Germany, which indicated it would deliver 40 “Marder” armored vehicles in the first quarter, following in the footsteps of France, which on Wednesday announced 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, most of the front freezes. Ukraine, which vowed to take back all of its territory from Russia, however said it was worried about a new Russian offensive in the near future.
Finally in London, the British government announced that a meeting of Ministers for Justice would be held in March to support the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on the war crimes and crimes against humanity which the forces are primarily accused of. Ukraine.