Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has declared the ceasefire declared by Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin over the Orthodox Christmas celebrations to have failed. "The world was able to see once again how false statements from Moscow are at every level," said the 44-year-old in his video message on Saturday evening - shortly before Putin's promised ceasefire period officially ended at 10:00 p.m. CET.
"They said something about an alleged ceasefire, but the reality is that Russian shells hit Bakhmut and other Ukrainian positions again," Zelenskyy said. "Once again it has been confirmed: Only the expulsion of the Russian occupiers from Ukrainian lands and the elimination of all possibilities for Russia to put pressure on Ukraine and all of Europe will mean the restoration of a ceasefire, security and peace."
Criticism of ceasefire as a propaganda gesture
On Thursday, Putin unilaterally ordered a 36-hour ceasefire, citing Christmas, which many Orthodox Christians celebrate on January 7, as the reason. Kyiv rejected the Russian advance as hypocritical from the start, and many international observers also spoke of a pure propaganda gesture. Even while the ceasefire was officially in place, Moscow admitted that it would continue to retaliate against Ukrainian attacks. According to Ukrainian sources, two civilians also died as a result of Russian shelling in the city of Bakhmut in the eastern region of Donetsk.
British secret services also spoke of combat operations in Ukraine at the usual level on Saturday. One of the hardest-fought areas is still around the city of Kreminna in the Luhansk region, according to the daily summary report from the British Ministry of Defence. "For the past three weeks, fighting around Kreminna has concentrated on the densely forested area west of the city."
Once again, Zelenskyj wished the Ukrainians a Merry Christmas in his speech. He was pleased that so many people had attended the service in the Kiev Pechersk Lavra that morning, he explained. In the church, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the new Orthodox Church in Ukraine celebrated a Christmas mass - and for the first time in decades it was in Ukrainian instead of Russian.