Local citizens watch a performance near a Christmas tree decorated for Orthodox Christmas and the New Year festivities in Mariupol, in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, on January 5, 2023. Image Credit: AP

MOSCOW: A unilateral Russian ceasefire ordered by President Vladimir Putin has come into force along the entire front as of noon Moscow time (0900 GMT), Russian state television said.

“At noon today, the ceasefire regime came into force on the entire contact line,” Russia’s state First Channel said. “It will continue until the end of January 7.”

Putin’s announcement on Thursday that the Kremlin’s troops would stop fighting along the 1,100-kilometer (684-mile) front line or elsewhere was unexpected.

It came after the Russian Orthodox Church head, Patriarch Kirill, proposed a ceasefire for this weekend’s Orthodox Christmas holiday. The Orthodox Church, which uses the Julian calendar, celebrates Christmas on January 7.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy questioned the Kremlin’s intentions, accusing the Kremlin of planning the fighting pause “to continue the war with renewed vigor.”

“Now they want to use Christmas as a cover to stop the advance of our guys in the (eastern) Donbas (region) for a while and bring equipment, ammunition and mobilized people closer to our positions,” Zelenskyy said late Thursday.

He did not, however, state outright that Kyiv would ignore Putin’s request.

US President Joe Biden echoed Zelenskyy’s wariness, saying it was “interesting” that Putin was ready to bomb hospitals, nurseries and churches on Christmas and New Year’s.

“I think (Putin) is trying to find some oxygen,” Biden said, without elaborating.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington had “little faith in the intentions behind this announcement,” adding that Kremlin officials ”have given us no reason to take anything that they offer at face value.”

The truce order seems to be a ploy “to rest, refit, regroup, and ultimately re-attack,” he said.