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Ukraine news – live: Putin’s troops begin temporary ceasefire for Orthodox Christmas

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Ukraine news – live: Putin’s troops begin temporary ceasefire for Orthodox Christmas

Vladimir Putin‘s troops have begun a ceasefire in the Ukraine war to mark the Orthodox Christmas.

Putin called for the truce to start at midday in Moscow (9am UK time) on Friday and last for 36 hours.

It comes after the head of the Russian Orthodox church called for the truce so Moscow could celebrate Christmas.

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Volodymyr Zelensky has rejected the ceasefire, accusing Russia of wanting to halt Kyiv’s progress in the bitter fight in eastern Ukraine.

“I found it interesting. He [Putin] was ready to bomb hospitals and nurseries and churches… on the 25th and New Year’s. I think he’s trying to find some oxygen,” the US president said in his reaction to the truce offer.

Russian forces had ramped up attacks on Ukraine during Christmas and New Year even though the Volodymyr Zelensky administration had called for respite.

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The truce call comes after the US said it would dispatch about 50 Bradley vehicles to Ukraine in its latest package worth roughly $2.8bn.

Key Points

  • Biden says Putin’s truce call ‘interesting’

  • Satellite images capture extent of Bakhmut’s destruction

  • Putin’s ceasefire pause likely to help troops rest and recoup, to ‘frame’ Ukraine – report

  • US to dispatch around 50 Bradleys in $2.85bn aid package

  • Volodymyr Zelensky rejects Russia’s truce call in a tit-for-tat move

Russian troops to begin temporary ceasefire

08:58 , Lucy Skoulding

Putin’s troops are starting a temporary ceasefire in the Ukraine war from midday in Moscow (9am UK time) on Friday to mark Orthodox Christmas.

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The head of the Russian Orthodox church called for a truce to start today and last for 36 hours.

Zelensky has accused Putin of using the truce as a means to halt Kyiv’s progress in eastern Ukraine.

And US president Biden believes Putin is using the opportunity to “find some oxygen”.

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He said: “I found it interesting. He [Putin] was ready to bomb hospitals and nurseries and churches… on the 25th and New Year’s. I think he’s trying to find some oxygen.”

President Putin (Sputnik)

President Putin (Sputnik)

Putin’s ceasefire announcement likely ‘intended to damage Ukraine’s reputation’

08:45 , Lucy Skoulding

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The US Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said Putin’s ceasefire announcements is likely an information operation to damage Ukraine’s reputation.

The ISW tweeted: “#Putin’s announcement that Russian forces will conduct a 36-hour ceasefire in observance of Russian Orthodox Christmas is likely an information operation intended to damage #Ukraine’s reputation.”

It added: “Putin cannot reasonably expect Ukraine to meet the terms of this suddenly declared ceasefire and may have called for the ceasefire to frame Ukraine as unaccommodating and unwilling to take the necessary steps toward negotiations.”

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Putin ally fighting for salt and gypsum mines in Ukraine

08:01 , Lucy Skoulding

Vladimir Putin’s close ally Yevgeny Prigozhin wants to take control of salt and gypsum mines near the Ukraine city of Bakhmut, a White House official has said.

Prigozhin is the founder of the Wagner Group, Russia’s most powerful mercenary force which has been critical in Russia’s offensive against Bakhmut.

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A US official said it was believed money was the motivator behind Russia’s “obsession” with taking Bakhmut.

Bakhmut in Ukraine (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)

Bakhmut in Ukraine (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)

Militias from Luhansk and Donetsk to drain Russian finances – MoD

07:20 , Arpan Rai

The absorption of militias from the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) and Donetsk People’s Republic (LPR) — carried out last week — is set to squeeze out Russian finances and weigh heavily on Moscow politically, the British defence ministry said today.

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“The status and identities of the DNR and LNR likely remain divisive within the Russian system. Even before the February 2022 invasion, these territories represented a significant drain on Russian finances,” the defence ministry said in its latest intelligence update.

“Now the Kremlin has overtly committed to supporting them, they will likely constitute a large political, diplomatic and financial cost for Russia which will last well beyond the current phase of the conflict,” the MoD said, noting Russia’s claim over the LNR and DNR as “intrinsic parts of the Russian Federation” following the fixed accession referendums in September last year.

Russia has discreetly controlled both since 2014, creating DNR’s 1st Army Corps and LNR’s 2nd Army Corps and supporting them with Russian military officers, according to the ministry.

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Satellite images capture extent of Bakhmut’s destruction

07:01 , Arpan Rai

Fresh satellite imagery shows heavy destruction of eastern Ukrainian city Bakhmut.

Images taken on Wednesday reveal extensive damage to buildings, homes, infrastructure and the fields in and near Bakhmut, said space technology company Maxar.

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Satellite views of Bakhmut showed extensive fortifications and “dragon’s teeth” tank obstacles that have been placed in fields and along roads east of the city.

Previously lush green forests and northeast highway intersections are seen neatly manicured in aerial views taken before the destruction of Bakhmut during the war.

Craters and charred grounds have replaced Bakhmut’s scenic fields. Additionally, the northeastern highway intersection has also been heavily damaged as seen in satellite images.

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Highway intersection northeast of Ukraine’s Bakhmut city seen before the Russian invasion of the country (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)

Highway intersection northeast of Ukraine’s Bakhmut city seen before the Russian invasion of the country (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)
Craters caused by artillery and shelling seen in the fields of highway intersection northeast of Bakhmut city in Ukraine on Wednesday (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)

Craters caused by artillery and shelling seen in the fields of highway intersection northeast of Bakhmut city in Ukraine on Wednesday (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)
An overview of apartment buildings and fields in August last year before fighting targeted southern Bakhmut in Ukraine (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)

An overview of apartment buildings and fields in August last year before fighting targeted southern Bakhmut in Ukraine (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)
Satellite images show destroyed apartment buildings and craters in fields of southern Bakhmut in Ukraine on Wednesday (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)

Satellite images show destroyed apartment buildings and craters in fields of southern Bakhmut in Ukraine on Wednesday (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)
Buildings and fields seen east of Bakhmut city in Ukraine in August last year before the region came under heavy shelling and missile attacks (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)

Buildings and fields seen east of Bakhmut city in Ukraine in August last year before the region came under heavy shelling and missile attacks (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)
Destroyed buildings and fields dotted with craters seen east of Bakhmut city in Ukraine on Wednesday (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)

Destroyed buildings and fields dotted with craters seen east of Bakhmut city in Ukraine on Wednesday (Satellite image ©2023 Maxar Technologies)

Putin’s ceasefire pause likely to help troops rest and recoup, to ‘frame’ Ukraine – report

06:15 , Arpan Rai

Vladimir Putin’s call for truce could likely be to help his forces invading Ukraine catch a break before starting the offensive in critical positions on the front lines, according to an analysis by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

“Putin could have been seeking to secure a 36-hour pause for Russian troops to afford them the ability to rest, recoup, and reorient to relaunch offensive operations in critical sectors of the front. Such a pause would disproportionately benefit Russian troops and begin to deprive Ukraine of the initiative,” the latest assessment by the US-based think-tank said.

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It added that the Russian president “cannot reasonably expect Ukraine to meet the terms of this suddenly declared ceasefire and may have called for the ceasefire to frame Ukraine as unaccommodating and unwilling to take the necessary steps towards negotiations.”

The sudden need for a ceasefire “is an intentional information tactic that Russia has previously employed”, the ISW noted.

Russia’s intention to call for a ceasefire can also be used to “frame Ukrainian forces who continue to fight throughout the timeframe of the ceasefire as unwilling to work towards peace and wanting to fight at all costs.”

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US to dispatch around 50 Bradleys in $2.85bn aid package

05:48 , Arpan Rai

The US is sending about 50 Bradley fighting vehicles to Ukraine, two US officials said, confirming that the US army staple vehicle is part of the package worth roughly $2.8bn (£2.35bn).

This tranche of the security package for Ukraine is expected to be unveiled today, the officials said.

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An armoured vehicle with a powerful gun, the Bradley fighting carrier is manufactured by BAE systems Plc and used by the US army to transport soldiers in battlefields since the mid-1980s.

The Bradley is a light vehicle but more agile than a tank and can double up as a troop carrier.

The vehicle can help carry additional ammunition and communications equipment as the war heats up during the thick of winter. It has been offered as France also sent light AMX-10 RC armoured combat vehicles to Ukraine amid debates if it qualifies as a tank.

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US to send Ukraine dozens of Bradleys in $2.85B aid package

Volodymyr Zelensky rejects Russia’s truce call in a tit-for-tat move

05:31 , Arpan Rai

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has slammed Russia’s ceasefire call, set to start today, and reminded the Kremlin of previous two calls for peace in November and December when at least 95,000 Russian forces had been killed in the war.

“Apparently both of our proposals have not been heard by the leaders of your country… In the place where they are, apparently, it is too deep to hear,” Mr Zelensky said in his nightly address and added that Russia has already lost almost 110,000 of its soldiers in the war.

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“Now they want to use Christmas as a cover to at least briefly stop the advance of our guys in Donbas and bring equipment, ammunition and mobilised men closer to our positions. What will this bring? Just another increase in the death toll,” he said.

“Everyone in the world knows how the Kremlin uses respites at war to continue the war with renewed vigour. But to end the war faster, that is not what is needed at all,” Mr Zelensky said.

He added: “What is needed is the citizens of Russia who will find the courage to free themselves of their shameful fear of one man in the Kremlin, at least for 36 hours, at least at Christmas time.”

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Russia’s 36-hour ceasefire will do nothing for peace, says James Cleverly

05:01 , Arpan Rai

Vladimir Putin’s plans for a 36-hour ceasefire in Ukraine over the Russian Orthodox Christmas holiday period will “do nothing to advance the prospects for peace”, the UK’s Foreign Secretary has said, adding that Moscow should at once withdraw its invading forces.

“A 36-hour pause of Russian attacks will do nothing to advance the prospects for peace. Russia must permanently withdraw its forces, relinquish its illegal control of Ukrainian territory and end its barbaric attacks against innocent civilians,” James Cleverly said.

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Volodymyr Zelensky had proposed a Russian troop withdrawal earlier, before 25 December, but Russia rejected it.

Mr Cleverly, speaking at a press conference in London alongside German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock, said tanks “may well be part” of future support for Ukraine, but stopped short of committing the UK to sending them.

Russia’s 36-hour ceasefire plan will do nothing for peace, says James Cleverly

Biden says Putin’s truce call ‘interesting’

04:50 , Arpan Rai

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Joe Biden has termed his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin’s call for ceasefire in the continuing Ukraine interesting, adding that the Kremlin leader’s offer is a sign of desperation.

“I’m reluctant to respond to anything that Putin says. I found it interesting that he was willing to bomb hospitals and nurseries and churches … on the 25th and New Year’s. I mean, I think he’s trying to find some oxygen,” he said.

The ceasefire will be observed by the Russian forces starting today as Orthodox Christians living in Russia and Ukraine will mark the festival of Christmas.

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04:15 , Arpan Rai

Good morning, welcome to our coverage of the Ukraine war on 6 January, Friday.

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