Day 318 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Attacks continue despite Christmas and the “Ceasefire”
Here are the highlights of events related to the war in Ukraine over the past 24 hours:
Ukraine celebrates Christmas, the shelling does not stop
Ukraine celebrates Christmas, the first since the beginning of the war.
The unilateral ceasefire announced by the Russian president took place at noon yesterday. But according to information from journalists, it was violated by both sides. There was shelling near Bakhmut - the city for which battles have been going on for months. Ukraine claims that there were also Russian strikes against Kramatorsk.
Today, for the first time in 300 years, the Nativity Liturgy in the Assumption Cathedral of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra will be celebrated by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which broke away from the Moscow Patriarchate 5 years ago.
Putin was alone at a holiday service in the Kremlin cathedral
Russian President Vladimir Putin attended a holiday service of the Orthodox Church in the Kremlin cathedral alone, instead of joining other worshipers in a public celebration, Reuters reported, citing BTA.
Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that for the first time in years, Putin celebrated Christmas Eve in Moscow and not in the region around the capital. State television showed two live clips showing Putin inside the Annunciation Cathedral as Orthodox priests conducted the midnight service.
Countries with a predominant Orthodox belief, including Russia, Ukraine, Serbia, Montenegro, the Republic of North Macedonia, celebrate the Nativity of Christ today, according to the Julian calendar.
In the video, Putin, wearing a blue jacket and a white turtleneck, was the only worshiper. The Russian president was seen crossing himself several times before the television report switched to a public service at Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral.
The Russian Orthodox Church supports the war in Ukraine, Reuters recalls. Moscow Patriarch Kirill on Thursday called on both countries to respect the 36-hour Christmas truce that Putin announced. At Friday night's service, Patriarch Kirill criticized Ukraine for its actions against a branch of the Orthodox Church that has long-standing ties to Moscow.
Ukraine's security service searched properties owned by the church and last month accused a senior cleric of engaging in anti-Ukrainian activity by supporting Russian policy.
"Let us pray for our brothers and sisters and believe that one day these devilish temptations will pass," Kirill said, mocking what he called Kyiv's "pitiful attempts" to destroy the church in Ukraine.
The Pentagon: Putin's goals are the same, but the Russian soldiers are demotivated
Vladimir Putin's goal of conquering Ukrainian territory has not changed, but Russian forces continue to suffer from military weaknesses, including an insufficient number of soldiers at their disposal.
This was announced by representatives of the Ministry of Defense in the USA, reported Reuters. In Washington, they hope that the latest record package of arms to Kyiv will help Ukraine regain territories occupied by Russia.
Pentagon Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper said Russian President Vladimir Putin has not given up on his goals of dominating Ukraine and continuing to acquire Ukrainian territory.
"But the reality of Russian weaknesses -- the weaknesses of the Russian armed forces -- collided with those goals," she said, adding that Russian troops were demotivated.
Ukraine's frontlines witness artillery fire despite 'ceasefire'
Despite the start of Moscow's order for its forces to maintain a unilateral ceasefire from mid-day in observance of the Russian holiday, there was an exchange of fire along the frontlines of Ukraine, Al Jazeera reported on Saturday.
The artillery shells were fired along the front lines in Ukraine's Bakhmut, Kreminna, and other locations in Donetsk and Luhansk regions on Friday. Before the truce was to start at noon Moscow time, Russian rockets also rained down on civilian areas in the cities of Kherson and Kramatorsk (09:00 GMT). In the first three hours of the ostensible truce, Russian forces blasted Ukrainian positions 14 times and assaulted one settlement three times, according to Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the frontline eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk, Al Jazeera reported.
Russian military attacked a fire department in Kherson, a city in southern Ukraine, before the deadline earlier on Friday, killing one rescue worker and injuring four others, according to the regional governor.
Earlier on Thursday, the Kremlin announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu to introduce a 36-hour ceasefire along the entire line of contact between the warring sides in Ukraine.
"Taking into account the appeal of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, I instruct the Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation to introduce from 12:00 January 6, 2023 until 24:00 January 7, 2023, a ceasefire along the entire line of contact between the parties in Ukraine," the statement read, as quoted by CNN.
Putin also called on Kyiv to declare a ceasefire so that a large number of Orthodox citizens living in areas of hostilities could attend church services on Orthodox Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, according to the statement. This came a few hours after Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church called for a temporary ceasefire, CNN reported.
Mykhailo Podolyak, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyys key aide said Russia must leave "occupied territories" in Ukraine before any 'temporary truce'.
"First. Ukraine doesn't attack foreign territory and doesn't kill civilians. As RF [Russian Federation] does. Ukraine destroys only members of the occupation army on its territory," said Podolyak, an adviser to the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine.
"Second. RF must leave the occupied territories -- only then will it have a 'temporary truce'. Keep hypocrisy to yourself," Podolyak said on Twitter.
The USA gives another 3 billion dollars in aid to Kyiv, in Bulgaria people filmed trucks with an M2 Bradley vehicles on them
The United States granted Ukraine a new package of military aid in the amount of 3 billion dollars, the White House announced. With it, for the first time, Kyiv will receive the M2 Bradley armored infantry vehicles, which are known as "tank killers".
In addition, the package will include:
- Additional HIMARS missile systems;
- HUMVEE armored vehicles;
- MRAP armored vehicles with improved anti-mine protection;
- Sea Sparrow anti-aircraft missiles.
Yesterday, a short video from Bulgaria appeared on some of the Ukrainian military channels in Telegram, showing trucks carrying M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles.
The description for it is laconic "Where are they traveling to?"
Several ????????"M2 Bradley" on the move in ????????#Bulgaria— C4H10FO2P (@markito0171) January 6, 2023
Unlikely they are going to ????????#Ukraine now without training
These are on way to Novo Selo military training area
this road crossing: 44°00'24.8"N 22°51'01.0"E pic.twitter.com/k7SRE9ajVe
US announces military assistance worth over USD 3.75 billion for Ukraine and for its European allies
The United States on Friday announced military assistance worth over USD 3.75 billion for Ukraine, European allies, and partners, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced in a statement.
In the statement, Antony Blinken said, "This assistance includes a $2.85 billion drawdown from stocks of the Department of Defense to be provided immediately to Ukraine and $225 million in Foreign Military Financing to build the long-term capacity and support modernization of Ukraine's military." He further added, "It also includes $682 million in Foreign Military Financing for European partners and allies to help incentivize and backfill donations of military equipment to Ukraine."
Notably, the US has been providing military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine ever since Moscow began its offensive on February 24, 2022.
Meanwhile, the US Department of Defence noted, "The Presidential Drawdown is the twenty-ninth such drawdown of equipment from DoD inventories for Ukraine that the Biden Administration has authorized since August 2021."
The US has committed more than USD 24.9 billion in military assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden Administration.
The security assistance announced for Ukraine includes 50 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles with 500 TOW anti-tank missiles and 250,000 rounds of 25mm ammunition.
In addition, the military assistance announced by the US includes 100 M113 Armored Personnel Carriers, 55 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles (MRAPs), and 138 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs).
Furthermore, the military assistance includes 18 155mm self-propelled Howitzers and 18 ammunition support vehicles, 70,000 155mm artillery rounds and 500 precision-guided 155mm artillery rounds, 1,200 155mm rounds of Remote Anti-Armor Mine (RAAM) Systems, 36 105mm towed Howitzers and 95,000 105mm artillery rounds, according to US Department of Defence press release.
Apart from this, the defense aid includes 10,000 120mm mortar rounds, additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), RIM-7 missiles for air defense, 4,000 Zuni aircraft rockets, approximately 2,000 anti-armor rockets, sniper rifles, machine guns, and ammunition for grenade launchers and small arms, claymore anti-personnel munitions, night vision devices and optics, spare parts and other field equipment.
On January 5, US President Joe Biden said that his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin is "trying to find some oxygen" with the ceasefire order in the ongoing conflict with Ukraine.
He expressed skepticism about the ceasefire ordered by Putin in Ukraine for Orthodox Christmas services.
Biden's statement comes after Vladimir Putin directed the Russian Defence Sergey Shoigu to order a ceasefire in Ukraine from January 6 to January 7. Putin said that the decision was taken after Patriarch Kirill called for a temporary ceasefire in Ukraine, according to the statement released by Kremlin on its website.
"I'm reluctant to respond (to) anything Putin says. I found it interesting. He was ready to bomb hospitals and nurseries and churches on the 25th and New Year's," CNN quoted US President Joe Biden as saying.
"I mean, I think he's trying to find some oxygen," he added.
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