Ukraine: what to make of Putin's ceasefire?

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a 36-hour ceasefire in Ukraine to mark the Orthodox Christmas. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, however, has refused to give the order for his troops to stop firing, saying that the Russians just want to use Christmas as a pretext to stop the Ukrainian advance in Donbass. The press is also suspicious.

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La Repubblica (IT) /

Pause before the escalation

Kyiv is not alone in its scepticism, La Repubblica comments:

“The countdown has begun. In the next two months the fighting will continue in all its ferocity. The generals on both sides are examining the ground conditions and waiting for ice to replace the mud, allowing the tanks to drive across the plains. ... The Ukrainians are sending thousands of men to Western bases for training; the Russians are trying to train recruits and rebuild brigades depleted by defeats. Both are amassing ammunition and combat equipment, which Kyiv is being supplied with at great expense by the Allies, while Moscow is taking it from Soviet weapons stockpiles. ... They are trying to perfect their tactics and technical equipment to surprise the enemy.” (BG) /

Not binding for Kyiv agrees with Zelensky's view that Putin just wants to give Russian troops a 36-hour break:

“Such a pause would benefit the Russian troops disproportionately and gradually take the initiative away from Ukraine. Putin can't seriously expect Ukraine to abide by the terms of this suddenly declared ceasefire. He may also have ordered the ceasefire to portray Ukraine as intransigent and unwilling to take the necessary steps towards negotiations.”

Leonid Volkov (RU) /

Putin casting Ukrainians as anti-Christians

Leonid Volkov, a close ally of opposition figure Alexei Navalny, suspects that the move is meant to pave the way for a new mobilisation in Russia. He writes on Facebook:

“What an idiotic ploy this 'ceasefire' is. ... Even the Z-channels [on Telegram] are howling: What is this 'unilateral ceasefire'? ... No one in the world takes it seriously. The only audience for this is the Russian TV viewer, to whom Putin will try to sell the idea after 7 January that the anti-Christians have broken the Christmas truce, that we must stand together, that a second wave of mobilisation and so on is necessary.”

El País (ES) /

Just propaganda

El País says the head of the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill is out of touch with reality:

“Putin justified the temporary ceasefire citing the appeal of the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church. ... Kirill has shown how poor his grasp of the new reality is by addressing his appeal 'to all parties involved in the internal conflict', as if it were not two separate states facing each other on the battlefield and, incidentally, two churches that have been independent of each other for five years. The Ukrainian claim that this is a Russian propaganda operation does not seem far-fetched.”