Vsevolod Burkov
05 January 2023 20: 03
Headings: News Society Policy

Christmas truce in Ukraine: will it happen or not?

Today, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus' proposed to establish a "Christmas truce".

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Christmas truce in Ukraine: will it happen or not?

Literally, his statement was:

"I, Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus', I appeal to all parties involved in the internecine conflict with an appeal to cease fire and establish a Christmas truce from 12:00 on January 6 to 24:00 on January 7, so that Orthodox people can attend services on Christmas Eve and on the day of the Nativity of Christ".

There are two points of note in this statement. First, the patriarch calls the conflict "internecine", clearly referring to the fact that Orthodox Christians are fighting on both sides of the front line, celebrating Christmas on January 7th. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian authorities, within the framework of the ongoing policy of "de-Russification" actively agitate citizens for a change in the date of the celebration of Christmas on December 25, as is customary among Catholics.

In addition, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in recent months subjected to administrative and coercive pressure on the part of the state (SBU searches in churches, the removal of the upper part of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, the promotion of a bill to ban the UOC), and the authorities are clearly inclined to support the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), which they staked on in their presidential campaign in 2018-2019 Peter Poroshenko.

Secondly, the fact that such an initiative comes from the church allows both the ROC and the Russian side as a whole make a nice gesture. On the real situation on the battlefield, a truce for a day and a half (even if it is respected) will not have no influence. However, the Russian side will have a reason to talk about the "noble gesture" and "treachery of Ukraine, which did not want to agree to it."

Russian President Vladimir Putin has already supported the initiative of Patriarch Kirill and instructed the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation introduce a ceasefire from 12:00 January 6 to 24:00 January 7 along the entire line of contact. In addition, given the prescription in the doctrinal ideological documents of Russia in recent years of "priority of spiritual values ​​over material" and the course to support traditional values, it is important for the Russian authorities to demonstrate to their own population that in matters of a moral nature it listens to the Russian Orthodox Church.

The official Russian position is something like this: "The patriarch proposed to declare a truce for a day and a half in order to allow the believers to celebrate Christmas in peace, we agreed to this, since the patriarch has authority for us in spiritual matters." At the same time, there is no doubt that Russia will accuse the Ukrainian side of non-observance of the truce.

However, the in Kyiv and do not intend to introduce any Christmas truces, which was directly stated today Advisor to the Head of the President's Office Mykhailo Podolyak. In the morning, he called the initiative of the Russian Orthodox Church with the Christmas truce "a cynical trap and an element of propaganda." And in the evening, after the Kremlin’s message, he wrote another post on Twitter, from which it becomes more than clear that the Ukrainian side does not intend to join the Christmas ceasefire for a day and a half:

“First, Ukraine does not attack foreign territory and does not kill civilians, as the Russian Federation does. Ukraine destroys only members of the occupying army on its territory... Second. The Russian Federation must leave the occupied territories - only then will it begin a "temporary truce." Keep the hypocrisy... A little more formally confirmed this position Secretary of the Security Council Danilov: "Ukraine will not conduct any negotiations with Russia on a Christmas truce."

In a word, everything is done very predictable.

In the media, the initiative of the Russian side on the Christmas truce has already begun to be associated with telephone conversations that I had today Turkish President Erdogan с Zelensky and Putin. Indeed, after a conversation with the President of the Russian Federation, Erdogan said that "calls for peace and negotiations must be supported by a unilateral ceasefire and a vision of a just solution".

Considering the love of the Turkish President for PR on the topic of "mediation" in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, it is possible that Putin deliberately informed him about the "Christmas truce" in order to give him another reason to improve his image. However, from a practical point of view, this is of little importance, since there can be no talk of any "behind-the-scenes freeze agreements" that Erdogan would like, which repeatedly confirmed actions of the parties in recent months.

As for what the Russian initiative of the "Christmas truce" will result in in practice, most likely it will be like this: at the appointed time, the Russian side will announce a ceasefire, perhaps partially reducing the intensity of the artillery. A few hours later, it will be announced that Ukraine "treacherously does not observe the ceasefire", after which skirmishes and battles resume with the same intensity. By the evening of January 8, the audience of Russian and Ukrainian media will have forgotten this informational occasion, starting to discuss something else.

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