Kyiv sceptical of Putin’s brief ceasefire offer as Erdoğan renews Ukraine peace push

Kyiv sceptical of Putin’s brief ceasefire offer as Erdoğan renews Ukraine peace push
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. (Photo: Burak Kara / Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his forces to cease fighting in Ukraine for 36 hours starting on Friday at noon, Moscow time, but Kyiv dismissed the move as a ploy, unlikely to slow a conflict well into its 11th month. The Kremlin said Putin gave the order ahead of Russian Orthodox Christmas.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan earlier urged Putin to call a unilateral cease-fire, even as Moscow stuck to its long-held line that Kyiv needed to give ground first. The comment marked the first time Erdoğan, a key ally, called on Putin’s forces to suspend fighting without a commitment from Ukraine that it would do the same. Erdoğan also spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is facing renewed pressure to deliver heavier weapons to Ukraine after France said it would provide “light combat tanks” and US President Joe Biden confirmed his country might send Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

Key developments

On the ground

Russian forces continued their assault on the eastern city of Bakhmut, shelling more than 60 settlements in the area, according to Ukraine’s general staff. Russian shelled targets in the southern Zaporizhzhia region more than 100 times in 24 hours, killing at least two and wounding three, Governor Oleksandr Starukh said. Another 45 settlements came under attack in Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.

Putin orders 36-hour Orthodox Christmas ceasefire; Kyiv sceptical

Putin ordered his forces to cease fighting in Ukraine for 36 hours starting Friday at noon, Moscow time. Kyiv dismissed the move as a ploy.

The Kremlin said Putin gave the order ahead of Russian Orthodox Christmas. It followed an appeal by the patriarch of the Russian church, which has close ties to the Kremlin.

Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak suggested the offer was “hypocrisy.” He earlier rejected the patriarch’s proposal as a “cynical trap and an element of propaganda.” Kremlin troops have kept up bombardment of the Bakhmut, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions in recent days.

Erdoğan offers peace mediation to Zelensky after talks with Putin

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan continued efforts to lay the ground for talks between Russia and Ukraine in a call with the Ukrainian president after earlier speaking to Vladimir Putin.

Erdoğan reiterated that Turkey could mediate in talks between the two countries and also offered help with efforts to create a safe zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant occupied by Russia.

Zelensky discussed his so-called peace formula, or preconditions to end the war, with Erdoğan, he said in a tweet. The peace formula, presented during the G20 summit in November, would see Russia leaving all occupied territories in Ukraine as one of the main conditions for ending the war.




Belarus, Russia to conduct joint air force exercises

Belarus and Russia will undertake joint air force exercises as part of an ongoing build-up in combined military activities, the Belarusian defence ministry said on Telegram, without elaborating.

Moscow is continuing to boost its presence in its neighbouring ally by sending more soldiers and weapons, according to the statement. President Vladimir Putin visited Minsk on 19 December for the first time since 2019 for talks with top officials.

Kazakhstan loses McDonald’s as war limits supplies

McDonald’s is exiting Kazakhstan after disruptions triggered by the invasion of Ukraine left the central Asian nation without a substitute for Russian meat supplies.

The world’s biggest fast-food chain is withdrawing from the nation of 20 million that borders Russia to the north after only six years.

The Kazakh business was unable to source meat from local or European suppliers, as higher prices and freight costs would mean running restaurants at a loss.

Read more: Kazakhstan Loses McDonald’s as Russia’s War Limits Supplies

Russia has enough artillery, Zaporizhzhia governor says

Russian forces, which effectively had “unlimited” munitions early in the war, maintain a sufficient supply to be able to match Ukrainian artillery rounds and launch dozens of attacks in return, the regional chief in Zaporizhzhia, Oleksandr Starukh, said during a video briefing.

Mobilised Russian troops are increasingly concentrating in the region, as elsewhere along the frontline, Starukh said. Ukrainian forces need more weapons to push the Russian troops away from cities, such as Zaporizhzhia’s eponymous regional capital. Even a retreat of 30km would put the Kremlin’s S-300 rockets out of range, he said.

Ukraine’s economy slumped by nearly a third last year

Ukraine’s economy contracted by 30% last year on the devastation wrought by Russia’s invasion, the Economy Ministry said. Its preliminary estimates for 2022 gave a range between 28.4% and 32.4%.

The scope of the economy’s plunge was less drastic than projections made at the beginning of the invasion last February, when some economists forecast a slump in gross domestic product in the order of 50%. The projection also beat the ministry’s initial estimate of more than 33%.

Erdoğan urges unilateral ceasefire in Putin call

Calls for peace and negotiations in Ukraine “should be supported by a unilateral ceasefire and a vision for a fair solution,” Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan told Russia’s Putin in a call.

Erdoğan reminded Putin of “positive results” from negotiations over the grain corridor that Ukraine is using to export food, prisoner exchanges and the still unrealised safe zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Scholz faces renewed heat to give tanks to Ukraine

Scholz came under renewed pressure in Germany to supply Ukraine with additional heavy weapons after France pledged to deliver armoured fighting vehicles.

The German chancellor has so far resisted calls to directly supply modern armour, arguing the policy must first be agreed to among European Union and Nato allies. But Marcus Faber, a lawmaker with the Free Democrats Party, part of Scholz’s three-way coalition, said Germany needs to change course. The co-governing Greens also signalled support for more deliveries.

Scholz’s administration should start with training Ukrainian forces to operate the Leopard battle tank and Marder infantry fighting vehicle, he said. “It’s time to supply Ukraine at least with the Marder from industrial stocks directly,” Faber, in Kyiv for discussions with Ukrainian officials, told Bloomberg.

Cold weather lifts power consumption in Ukraine

Power consumption continues to rise in Ukraine amid cooling temperatures and increasing industry and business activity after the holidays, national grid operator Ukrenergo said on Telegram.

The country’s energy system produces enough power to meet demand during the night, but is limiting consumption from 8am until 11pm Russian shelling damaged an energy infrastructure site on Wednesday in Ukraine’s east, and difficult weather conditions in the country’s central regions caused disruptions, the utility said.

Russia pardons convicts after six months at front

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner military contracting company, announced the pardons and hailed the roughly two dozen survivors as “warriors” in a meeting with them in the southern Krasnodar region near the Ukrainian border, according to the state-run RIA Novosti agency.

The longtime Putin ally is one of the most prominent supporters of his war. Prigozhin has about 50,000 personnel on the ground in Ukraine, including 40,000 convicts and 10,000 contractors, the US said last month.

One news clip showed Prigozhin at an event with wounded fighters, including several who had lost legs. He didn’t comment on how many of the first wave of convict recruits had been killed or captured, citing only one example of a man serving a 30-year sentence who he said had blown himself up in battle after being cut off from his unit.

Relocation of Russian bombers adds stress to fleet, UK says

Russia reported after Christmas that it had relocated long-range aviation (LRA) bomber jets to the nation’s far east, in a likely general dispersal following two airstrikes on the Engels air base much closer to Ukraine, the UK defence ministry said.

Kremlin forces “will still be able to fire air-launched cruise missiles into Ukraine because the weapons have a 5,000km range, in addition to the flight range of the bombers,” the UK said. Still, the move adds additional “maintenance stress” to the aircraft.

Biden confirms considering Bradley Fighting Vehicles for Ukraine

Biden said he’s considering sending Ukraine the Bradley Fighting Vehicles to aid the country’s defence against Russia’s invasion.

Biden answered “yes” after he was asked by reporters travelling with him whether Bradleys were under consideration as the US prepares its next package of military aid to Kyiv. He didn’t elaborate.

While delivering Bradleys would represent a significant expansion of the type of weapons the US is providing to Ukraine, Kyiv has repeatedly asked its allies in Nato to send more heavily armoured weapons including the US Abrams and German-made Leopard main battle tanks. DM


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