Bakhmut, Ukraine – There was no ceasefire in Bakhmut on Friday. Despite a 36-hour ceasefire declared by Russia, Russian artillery shells thundered overhead and into Ukrainian-held territory through the afternoon and evening, just as they had for months.
There were scattered reports of attacks elsewhere in Ukraine, but the clearest contrast to the promised lull in fighting was in Bakhmut in eastern Donetsk province, the scene of some of the war’s most intense recent fighting. The initial time of the ceasefire, believed to be Friday afternoon, came and went with no apparent lull in Moscow’s efforts to get Ukrainians to leave this small town.
“Just listen,” a Ukrainian soldier, who used the surname Navar, said while standing on a deserted street in the city around 1:30 a.m. on Friday. The rattle of small arms, the whistle of artillery and mortar rounds, the shudder of explosions all continued unabated.
Soldier’s assessment of the ceasefire: “It was just public relations.”
Ukrainian leaders had never agreed to a ceasefire announced unilaterally by the Kremlin on Thursday and Saturday, the time of Christmas in the Orthodox Christian calendar, although Kyiv has not rejected the idea outright. He dismissed it as a cynical propaganda ploy by Russian President Vladimir V. Putin as well as a bid to provide relief to the battered Russian military. In any case, the Ukrainians said, they did not trust the Russians to stop the shooting.
Fighting continued on Friday along many parts of the front, which stretches hundreds of miles through southern and eastern Ukraine. Each side accused the other of starting it, saying that their forces were only defending themselves. It was not immediately possible to verify their claims or determine the intensity of the fighting compared to previous days.
But it was not a truce.
Ukrainian officials and military analysts warned the Kremlin would use any respite to replenish battered units, moving in fresh troops, weapons and ammunition. in her night video addressUkraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday that the government in Moscow “wants to use Christmas as a cover” to regroup and thwart Ukrainian advances.
state of war
- Ceasefire: On 5 January the Kremlin announced a 36-hour ceasefire in Ukraine to mark Eastern Orthodox Christmas. Amid the ongoing attacks, Ukraine’s leaders dismissed the idea as cynical posturing by an unrelenting enemy.
- Sexual Offenses: After months of bureaucratic and political delays, Ukrainian officials are accelerating the process of documenting sex crimes committed by the Russian military during the war.
- A new resource: The Pentagon will provide Kyiv with Bradley Fighting Vehicles, which offer more protection and firepower than any truck or armored personnel carrier the West has ever sent.
- goal setting cellphone, Ukraine has been able to target Russian soldiers by pointing their cellphone signals at them. Despite the fatal consequences, Moscow’s soldiers continue to break the ban on using phones.
“Everyone in the world knows how the Kremlin uses peace in war to continue the war with new vigour,” he said, and he addressed the Russian people directly in Russian, of those who “sent all your men to slaughter” and “don’t try for peace.”
Since invading Ukraine in February, Russia has endured international condemnation and isolation, and seen its war effort fail miserably. Political analysts said the Kremlin would try to use the declaration of the Christmas ceasefire – which is nothing more than allowing soldiers and others on both sides to celebrate the holiday and attend church services – as a public relations boost. Required for , both at home and abroad.
Sure enough, the Kremlin and its allies used Friday’s ceasefire to portray Russia as the proper peacemaker and Ukraine as the aggressor. The announcement bolsters Mr Putin’s claim to be the savior of Orthodox Christianity against a decadent and godless West, although most Ukrainians are also Orthodox Christians.
The Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church, whose leader publicly called for a ceasefire just hours before the announcement, have developed an increasingly close alliance.
“Christian mercy was offered to the Ukrainian people on the great holiday,” Dmitry A. Medvedev, Russia’s former president and deputy chairman of Putin’s security council, wrote on a telegram. “Their leaders rejected it.”
A Russian proxy official in occupied Ukraine, Vladimir Rogov, wrote on Telegram, “By definition there can be no agreement on Christmas with Satanists.”
Some analysts suggest that the ceasefire may be an attempt to avoid heavy casualties during Christmas and the resulting backlash. In the past week, Ukraine has claimed to have killed or wounded more than 1,000 Russian soldiers following artillery strikes on concentrations of newly mobilized troops behind the front lines, although those numbers could not be independently verified. could.
Starting in late summer, the Ukrainian military was able to go on the offensive with weapons and training supplied by other countries, especially the United States, which has provided more than $20 billion in military aid. But there has been little movement on the front lines in recent weeks despite continuous fighting.
On Friday, the Biden administration announced an additional $3 billion in weapons and military equipment, which would include 50 Bradley Fighting Vehicles. This week, France, Germany and the United States agreed for the first time to send advanced armored infantry vehicles such as the Bradley, which could be vital to Ukrainian forces’ mobility as they attempt to resume the offensive.
The armored vehicles are the latest example of Western powers providing weapons they had refused to supply earlier in the war for fear of Russian escalation. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba suggested that this marked a decisive shift in allied attitudes.
“The president’s diplomatic team managed to convince the allies: the time for arms embargo has passed,” he wrote further. Facebook,
Bakhmut is one of the few places in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region where Russian forces remain on the offensive, even though they have lost ground elsewhere. Russian troops and fighters from a Russian private military contracting company have trench lines in the fields just east of the city, and regularly try to advance into the outer districts.
Just before noon on Friday morning, Ukrainian troops flying drones for surveillance saw groups of Russian soldiers advance on abandoned houses, trying to gain a foothold in the city, as they have for months.
The ensuing shelling on the streets began before noon and escalated later, closing a road that Ukrainian troops used to retake their positions in eastern Bakhmut. Artillery and mortar fire rained down on Ukrainian-held areas, and the Ukrainians retaliated.
The ceasefire is believed to last till midnight on Saturday.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said that the Ukrainian army had fired at Russian positions in the Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhia regions and that the Russian army retaliated. Ukraine’s military later responded that Russian jets had fired 12 missiles at the regions of Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk, and that Russian forces had fired in and around Bakhmut and the regions of Kharkiv to the northeast and Kherson to the southeast.
On Friday morning, as the ceasefire approached, there were several Russian attacks, including on a firehouse in the southern city of Kherson, which officials said killed at least one person. Russian forces have been continuously shelling the area since they were forced to retreat from the city in November.
State Emergency Services of Ukraine shared images after the attack, including an image of a firefighter’s body covered with a tarpaulin, showing the person’s uniform beneath the cover. Several emergency response vehicles were also damaged.
Kirylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office, posted a picture on his Telegram account of what appears to be a firefighter’s bloodied hand.
“They talk about a ‘ceasefire’,” Mr Tymoshenko wrote. “It is beyond the comprehension of any civilized act.”
“Murderers, terrorists and bloodthirsty people,” he said. “It is he with whom we are at war.”
Mr Tymoshenko said a Russian attack on the city of Kramatorsk had hit a residential area, and Russian shells had hit apartment buildings and a hospital in the city of Kurakhov, both in eastern Ukraine. It was not clear whether the attacks took place before or after the scheduled afternoon of the ceasefire.
Megan Special, Anatoly Kurmanev, Natalia Yermak, Oleg Matsnev, cassandra winograd And Michael D. Shear Contributed reporting.
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