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Home Articles Flashpoints Was Putin's Orthodox Christmas 'ceasefire' a missed opportunity, or was it never for real? And does

Was Putin's Orthodox Christmas 'ceasefire' a missed opportunity, or was it never for real? And does

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 Jan 7 2023

Was Putin's Orthodox Christmas 'ceasefire' a missed opportunity, or was it never for real? And does that matter in the slightest?

Maybe even if we are completely cynical about Putins motives and intentions over the 'Orthodox Christmas Ceasefire', Ukraine should have reciprocated – and left it to Putin to violate his own ceasefire.


In the period leading up to and including western Christmas, I argued that there should be a ceasefire – if not during the western Christmas then during the Orthodox one. Putin seems to have 'obliged' by proclaiming one over the Orthodox Christmas, but it has turned out to be a mirage.


It is entirely natural to assume – unless you are a strong supporter of the Putin Government – that Vladimir Putins 'order' to his troops (if there ever really was one at all) - to cease fighting over the Orthodox Christmas period for 36 hours – was never in good faith, and should never have been taken seriously.


The fact that the period after the ceasefire came into effect was marked not by a decrease, but by a marked increase in military activity especially around Bakhmut, seems to make the point for us: The so – called 'ceasefire' was simply never in earnest, and should never have been given the slightest attention or credibility.


And that seems to have been the attitude of the Ukrainian government, who stated that Russia could have a ceasefire when its troops had left Ukrainian territory, and by President Biden who said simply that Putin was looking for 'a little oxygen'.


Indeed, Putin almost certainly WAS (and still is) looking for 'oxygen'.


It was also argued that a ceasefire lopsidedly benefits the Russian side of the war, and disadvantages Ukraine.


From a military point of view this at least seems to be nonsense. Resting the troops would benefit both sides about equally. Similarly, there would have been opportunities for resupply, repair to bunkers and defence lines for both sides.


Putins announcement of a ceasefire was reportedly met with shock and horror by Russian military commanders especially in Bakhmut. Indeed, it's quite possible that Russian commanders decided simply to ignore or undermine it. This is not the reaction of those who think a ceasefire will benefit them.


More importantly, a ceasefire should have been looked at as an opportunity to initiate negotiations toward something more permanent, or at least negotiations about negotiations.


It is fair to say, though we can't of course be 100% sure, that the purported ceasefire was merely a piece of PR designed to make Ukraine look bad, and aimed at a domestic Russian audience. In other words, 'oxygen'. Or possibly not – It was first proposed by Orthodox Patriarch Kiril. Putin and Kiril are close, and Putin views the approval of Kiril as important. How sincere exactly Putins 'orthodoxy' may be is anyone's guess, but we know he is involved in various other forms of 'mysticism' and even superstition, so the question is how MUCH does he believe, and not whether he is at all 'sincere'. The version of orthodoxy Kiril purveys is particularly reactionary and nationalistic, and thus, would appeal to Putin. Putin cultivates Kiril and Kirin cultivates Putin.


So in doing Patriarch Kiril's will, or seeming to do his will, Putin may or may not have been more or less sincere. We can't know. And it doesn't matter, except to Putin.


However, from the point of view of Ukraine, Putins sincerity would have been neither here nor there. The knowledge that the ceasefire was NOT supported by senior Russian military commanders should however have been a green light to Ukraine, to which perhaps they should have paid more attention.


Ukraine should have taken the ceasefire, and should take ANY future suggestion of a ceasefire at face value and said yes.


Even knowing for certain that the other side was not sincere, they should have said yes – and left it then to the other side to violate their own ceasefire.


By doing so Ukraine retains the high moral ground and hence the high political ground they have had (rightly) all along.


They should have asked that the ceasefire be accompanied by negotiations about negotiations and asked for a possibility that it be indefinitely prolonged beyond 36 hours.


Putins sincerity was and is simply neither here nor there. Let HIM violate the ceasefire, as he already seems to have done.


John Hallam

Nuclear Disarmament Campaigner

People for Nuclear Disarmament

Co-Convenor, Abolition 2000 Nuclear Risk Reduction Working group

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