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January 9, 2023

Zelensky Rejects Putin’s Christmas Truce

Ukrainians dub this cease-fire “a cynical trap and an element of propaganda.”

The war in Ukraine rages on, even during the holidays. The Russian Orthodox Church, through Moscow’s Patriarch Kirill, suggested a cease-fire for Russians and Ukrainians alike to be able to attend Christmas Mass. In the Russian Orthodox Church, Christmas is celebrated on January 6 and 7.

This harkens to the mind of many the famous story of the 1914 Christmas cease-fire during the heart of World War I. This spontaneous act of humanity has rung down through the ages and is marked as one of the most singular, miraculous, and bittersweet moments of that horrible war.

This call for a cease-fire over the weekend, however, was met with deserved derision by the Ukrainian leadership. Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the Ukrainian Chief of Staff, summed up his president’s sentiments with a social media post: “The Russian Orthodox Church is not an authority for global Orthodoxy and acts only as a ‘propagandist of war.’ The Russian Orthodox Church has called for the genocide of Ukrainians, encouraged mass murders, and insists on even greater militarization of the Russian Federation. Therefore, the statement of the Russian Orthodox Church about the ‘Christmas truce’ is a cynical trap and an element of propaganda.”

This is also a bit of a presumption on Russian President Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill’s part, as the Ukrainian Orthodox Church celebrated Christmas with the rest of the West on December 25. This change in the holiday celebration is another pointed difference the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has used to underline its political split from the Russian Orthodox Church that was officially made in May 2022.

Moreover, the Russian demand for a cease-fire is one that seems to only benefit Putin. President Joe Biden might have actually had a point when he said Putin is “trying to find some oxygen.” The Ukrainians, however, are worried that the cease-fire is nothing more than a ruse. The truce would be another opportunity for Russian troops to commit heinous acts against the Ukrainian civilian population by planting bombs inside churches to go off during a busy holiday Mass, then turn around and blame the lives lost on Ukraine. According to our Mark Alexander, “Regarding the prospect of Russian red flag church bombings to blame on Ukraine, the best defense against red flag ops is to get out in front of them by exposing such plans.”

As far as Putin needing “some oxygen,” Ukraine may be beating Russia on the battlefield, but Russia has had a devastating effect on the country’s infrastructure and has not shied away from targeting the civilian population. This attack on the Ukrainian economy has certainly been one of the driving factors behind Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s constant requests for financial aid from his Western allies. Incidentally, the Biden administration has freed up another $2.8 billion in military aid for Ukraine.

The overall distrust of the enemy led Ukraine to ignore the “truce” and continue the fighting over the weekend. Russia continued bombing as well.

The Ukrainian military expects for the Kremlin to mobilize more troops in the coming weeks. According to Andriy Chernyak, a Ukrainian Military Intelligence Service representative, half a million more troops may be headed to Ukraine from Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Vadym Skibitsky, Ukraine’s deputy military intelligence chief, said this may be Putin’s last big push. “We expect them to conduct offensives in Donetsk and Kharkiv regions, as well as possibly Zaporizhzhia but to defend in Kherson and Crimea, this is the number of men they will need for such a task,” Skibitsky said. He also told reporters, “If Russia loses this time around, then Putin will collapse.”

These are hopeful words as the war quickly approaches its first anniversary. But it’s by no means a guarantee for the future.

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