Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a 36-hour ceasefire for his troops in Ukraine Thursday, claiming it was in acknowledgement of the Orthodox Christmas holiday.
Ukraine called the order “hypocrisy,” and called for Russian troops to retreat if they wanted a break from the fighting.
The announcement came after the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, called on both Moscow and Kyiv to lay down arms for the holiday.
Eastern Orthodox Christians, including those living in Russia and Ukraine, celebrate the Christmas holiday on Jan. 6 and 7.
“Taking into account the appeal of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, I instruct the Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation to introduce a ceasefire regime along the entire line of contact of the parties in Ukraine from 12.00 on January 6, 2023 to 24.00 on January 7, 2023,” Putin said in his Thursday decree.
“Proceeding from the fact that a large number of citizens professing Orthodoxy live in the areas of hostilities, we call on the Ukrainian side to declare a ceasefire and allow them to attend services on Christmas Eve, as well as on Christmas Day,” he added.
Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, lashed out against the order on Twitter.
“Ukraine doesn’t attack foreign territory and doesn’t kill civilians,” he wrote. “[Russia] does. Ukraine destroys only members of the occupation army on its territory.
“[Russia] must leave the occupied territories – only then will it have a ‘temporary truce,’” he continued. “Keep hypocrisy to yourself.”
Podolyak had earlier dismissed Kirill’s peace plea as a trap, claiming the Russian Orthodox church had acted as a “propagandist” for Putin and helped incite the “mass murder” of Ukrainians.
“The statement of the Russian Orthodox Church about the ‘Christmas Truce’ is a cynical trap and an element of propaganda,” he said.