Putin orders 36-hour cease-fire across Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday ordered his armed forces to observe a 36-hour cease-fire in Ukraine from Friday for the Russian Orthodox Christmas holiday.

Putin did not appear to make his cease-fire order conditional on a Ukrainian agreement to follow suit, and it wasn’t clear whether hostilities would actually halt on the 1,100-kilometer front line or elsewhere.
At various points during the war that started on February 24 last year, Putin has ordered limited and local truces to allow for evacuations of civilians or other humanitarian actions. Thursday’s order was the first time Putin directed his troops to observe a cease-fire throughout Ukraine.

“Based on the fact that a large number of citizens professing Orthodoxy live in the combat areas, we call on the Ukrainian side to declare a cease-fire and give them the opportunity to attend services on Christmas Eve, as well as on the Day of the Nativity of Christ,” according to Putin’s order, addressed to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and published on the Kremlin’s website.

Putin acted at the suggestion of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, who proposed a truce from noon Friday through midnight Saturday Moscow time. The Russian Orthodox Church, which uses the ancient Julian calendar, celebrates Christmas on January 7.