Volodymyr Zelenskyj said it straight away, but he says it again. "The world could see once again how wrong statements from Moscow are at every level," he said on Saturday evening.
Moscow, meaning the Russian President and his power apparatus, had imposed a 36-hour ceasefire for Orthodox Christmas as a supposedly pious gesture in its godless war of aggression against Ukraine. Practically no one believed that, not even Zelensky. "They said something about an alleged ceasefire, but the reality is that Russian shells have again hit Bakhmut and other Ukrainian positions." The Kremlin's statements: "mendacious", says the Ukrainian President.
In fact, there could be no question of a ceasefire. Fighting ensued when guns should be silent. Moscow itself has admitted this, arguing that it is only responding to attacks by Ukraine. The information cannot be independently verified. Either way: Russia is the aggressor, and doubts about the Russian portrayal are repeatedly appropriate.
The British Ministry of Defense said on Saturday that Russian troops were continuing the war "at a routine level". One of the fiercest battles raged in the city of Kreminna in the Luhansk region, where the conflict has meanwhile shifted to "heavily forested terrain". As a result, both sides would "most likely have difficulties stopping the artillery fire": In the wooded areas, infantry would usually be deployed - soldiers who would primarily fight on foot and at "close range".
The "Kyiv Independent" reported on several attacks by Russia during the supposed ceasefire, which lasted less than an hour:
Shortly after the official end of the declared ceasefire, the authorities in the region around the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv reported several explosions. Air alert was also declared in the areas of Poltava, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhia, Luhansk and on the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea annexed by Russia.
According to Ukrainian sources, at least two civilians died as a result of Russian shelling over the Christmas period. For Kyiv, this should be more evidence that the Russian ceasefire was a diversionary maneuver and a cynical propaganda gesture. There, the "armistice" was rejected from the outset.
As early as Thursday, when President Putin announced the temporary ceasefire, the renowned Institute for the Study of War (ISW) suspected a hypocritical maneuver by Moscow that was "probably intended to damage Ukraine's reputation."
Noting that Putin "reasonably cannot expect Ukraine to honor the terms of this suddenly declared ceasefire, (he) may have called for the ceasefire to portray Ukraine as unaccommodating and unwilling to take the necessary steps towards negotiations." undertake," wrote the experts in their assessment of the situation.
In addition, it takes time to organize and implement ceasefires - at least more than 24 hours, according to the ISW. US President Joe Biden was also skeptical when Putin announced the ceasefire shortly before. "I think he's just trying to get some air," he said.
As Russia continued its hostilities in Ukraine, the Russian President presented himself as devout and in front of a reverent crowd. Photos and footage distributed by Russian state media on Saturday show Putin celebrating Orthodox Christmas only in the presence of sacristans at the Cathedral of the Annunciation on the Kremlin grounds.
According to a Kremlin statement, Putin, who ordered the war of aggression against the neighboring country more than ten months ago, said: "This bright, beloved holiday inspires people to good deeds and endeavors and serves to promote spiritual values and moral guidelines that are imperishable in society as affirming mercy, compassion, goodness and justice."
The Kremlin chief also thanked the Russian Orthodox Church for its role in society. Its leader, Patriarch Kyrill, is considered a fervent supporter of the Russian campaign, which has already claimed the lives of thousands of civilians. There are more every day, the alleged ceasefire has obviously changed nothing.
Sources: Kyiv Independent, The Guardian, UK Ministry of Defence, Institute for the Study of War, with footage from DPA and AFP news agencies