Russians and Ukrainians celebrate Christmas amid ongoing fighting

SITUATION UPDATE – This Saturday, January 7, Ukrainians and Russians celebrate Christmas. Despite the observed skirmishes, the Russian army is ensuring that Putin adheres to the ceasefire announced on this occasion.

Ukrainians and Russians celebrated Orthodox Christmas this Saturday, January 7, in the middle of a war, with fighting continuing on several fronts despite President Vladimir Putin’s decree of a unilateral ceasefire.

The continuation of the Russian ceasefire until midnight

Like the previous day, the Russian army condemned Ukraine’s shelling of its positions and confirmed its intention to continue the ceasefire until midnight on Saturday. He claimed to have repulsed attacks or responded to Ukrainian fire at several points along the front and inflicted casualties on his opponent.

Ukraine doubts the sincerity of the Russian ceasefire and says it is a ruse to buy time. Washington, Paris, London, Berlin and the EU condemned the initiative. Journalists in Chassiv Yar, eastern Ukraine, observed continuous shelling throughout the morning.

In Bachmouth, the epicenter of the fighting further north, the AFP had already heard artillery fire on both sides of the front on Friday, hours after Russia brokered a unilateral ceasefire. But these shots were less intense than the previous days.

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

According to the Ukrainian Prosecutor’s Office, two people died and 13 were injured in Bakhmut, which was largely destroyed as a result of the fighting on Friday, and where both sides suffered heavy losses. According to the Ukrainian authorities, Russian troops also shelled Kherson region (south) on Friday, killing one rescuer and injuring 7 others.

Churches struggle during Christmas

Russia and Ukraine, two countries that have been at war since February 2022, celebrated Orthodox Christmas on Saturday, which is believed by the majority.

On the Russian side, Vladimir Putin, abandoning his habit of attending liturgies in the provinces or on the outskirts of Moscow, attended a midnight mass in the Kremlin church alone on Friday. In a message released by the Kremlin on Saturday, the Russian president congratulated the Orthodox Christians and said that this day is encouraging.good deeds and wishes“. church organizationssupport for our soldiers participating in a special military operationThe Russian president said using the official Kremlin term for the attack on Ukraine.

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

On the Ukrainian side, hundreds of believers attended a historic liturgy on Saturday at the famous monastery of the Kyiv Caves Lavra, which was previously under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate but became part of the Independent Ukrainian Church in December. The office was first headed by Metropolitan Epiphany, the head of this church, which was created after a disagreement with the Moscow Patriarchate in 2018-2019.

We have been waiting for this sanctuary to be handed over to us for a long time. This is a truly historic event that all Ukrainians have been waiting for19-year-old Veronika Martyniouk, who directs the choir, told AFP.Every country has its own church. We have our own church – that’s good, Ukrainian church, that’s how it should be“, Oksana Sobko, 47 years old, was faithful.

The US promises three billion dollars

Even if it had been respected, the ceasefire ordered by Vladimir Putin would have provided only 36 hours of respite in the nearly 11-month high-intensity conflict that has seen no progress. The United States, Kiev’s main patron, pledged $3 billion in new military aid to Ukraine on Friday.

This winning year has just begun“, welcomed the presidency of Ukraine and noted that “packagealso includes HIMARS precision missiles and Sea Sparrow anti-aircraft missiles. The announcement followed Germany’s announcement that it would send 40 armored vehicles in the first quarter.marder“, following on the heels of France announcing the upcoming delivery of AMX-10 RC light battle tanks on Wednesday.

Western arms supplies are crucial to Kyiv, and in particular have enabled it to mount an effective counteroffensive that drove Russian forces out of Kharkiv Oblast in the northeast and Kherson in the south. With winter, the front is mostly frozen. Ukraine expressed its fear of a new attack by Russia.

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