Ukraine marks Orthodox Christmas as Russia attacks despite 36-hour truce

Kyiv, Dec 7 (EFE).- Orthodox Christians in Kyiv flocked to mass to mark Christmas on Saturday as Russian forces continued to attack Ukrainian positions despite a 36-hour unilateral truce that expires at midnight.

The Christmas mass was led by the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Serhii Petrovych, and was held in Kyiv’s Dormition Cathedral for the first time after Ukraine’s culture ministry advised that the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra (a historic Eastern Orthodox monastery where the service is usually held) refrain from renewing its lease with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate.

The faithful attend the Christmas divine service held by Metropolitan Epiphanius, the head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, at the Assumption Cathedral in Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra in Kyiv, Ukraine, 07 January 2023. EFE/EPA/OLEG PETRASYUK

Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7, according to the Julian calendar.

On the occasion of the festivities, Russian president Vladimir Putin announced a unilateral 36-hour ceasefire on Thursday which runs until midnight on Saturday, but despite the truce, Moscow has confirmed it has continued to target Ukrainian positions in response to enemy attacks.

According to Russia’s defense ministry daily report, its forces have been “observing a ceasefire along the entire line of contact in the area of the special military operation since 12 noon Moscow time on 6 January.”

In the statement, the Kremlin accuses Kyiv of repeatedly attacking Russian positions and civilians and it adds that Russian forces will respect the truce until midnight.

The report says that Ukrainian troops carried out attacks against Russian positions in several towns in the Donetsk region, as well in the southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.

The Russian president on Thursday ordered a 36-hour ceasefire along the front lines in Ukraine during the Orthodox Christmas period.

The order came following a request from the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill.

Both Ukrainian authorities and the United States have accused Russian forces of not respecting the temporary ceasefire, although Moscow says its troops have only responded to enemy attacks.EFE