Zelenskyy vows Russia ‘will be punished’ for war in Ukraine
Russia launched its fiercest attack in weeks, hitting power and water infrastructure in Ukraine amid freezing temperatures.
Damien Henderson, Associated Press
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his armed forces to hold a 36-hour cease-fire in Ukraine this weekend to mark the Russian Orthodox Christmas holiday on Saturday.
It was not immediately clear whether hostilities would actually be halted. Ukrainian officials have previously dismissed Russian peace moves as ploys to regroup and prepare for more attacks.
Mykhailo Podolyak, a top aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, appeared to dismiss the truce in a tweet: “RF (Russian Federation) must leave the occupied territories – only then will it have a ‘temporary truce’. Keep hypocrisy to yourself.”
President Joe Biden, when asked about Putin’s cease-fire, said he was “reluctant to respond to anything Putin says. … I think he’s trying to find some oxygen.”
Latest news: Kremlin blames soldiers’ cell phones, pundits blame Russia military leaders for Ukraine strike that killed 89
►The German government said it released a wide-ranging aid package to Ukraine that includes, among other things, 30 drone detection systems, 20 rocket launchers, 63 pickups and 12 heavy-duty trucks, generators, and 36,400 wool blankets.
►Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke by phone Thursday with Zelenskyy and Putin. Erdoğan’s office said he repeated his offer to mediate peace talks.
►The French Defense Ministry said Thursday it will hold talks with Ukraine to arrange for the delivery of armored combat vehicles. The ministry says it will be the first time this type of Western-made wheeled tank destroyer will be provided to the Ukrainian military.
►The U.S. will provide $30 million in aid to Moldova to help the small country tackle an energy crisis and other economic hardships “caused by the Kremlin’s unprovoked and unjustified war” against Ukraine, a U.S. government aid agency said Thursday.
The Pentagon will send 50 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine, according to a U.S. official who was not authorized to comment publicly on the shipment.
Another official, Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, confirmed the shipment of armored Bradleys but would not disclose when they would arrive. The armored vehicles will be able to transport infantry troops into combat, Ryder said.
The Bradley provides an “offensive and defensive” capability, Ryder said. The Pentagon has been reluctant to provide Ukraine with weapons that can be labeled offensive for fear of provoking a Russian response.
A formal announcement is expected Friday.
An 80,000-pound vehicle that moves on tank-like track, the Bradley has a crew of three and can carry about seven troops. The Bradley can be equipped with a 25mm cannon and other weaponry.
– Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, had proposed the truce in a statement Thursday.
“I, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill, call on all parties involved in the internecine conflict to establish a Christmas ceasefire from 12:00 p.m. Moscow time on January 6 to 12:00 a.m. on January 7 so that Orthodox people could attend church services on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day,” Kirill said.
Kirill has been a strong supporter of the war, justifying the invasion as part of Russia’s “metaphysical struggle” to prevent a liberal encroachment from the West.
Christmas falls on Dec. 25 in the current Gregorian calendar, introduced in the 16th century. The Orthodox Church still uses the Julian calendar, which celebrated Christmas on Jan. 7.
Russian military units that rely on recruits called up in recent months are hampering Russia’s military force in Ukraine, a Washington-based military think tank says in its latest assessment of the war.
The Institute for the Study of War notes that the head of the Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin – speaking after a recent Ukraine attack in Makiivka that killed 89 soldiers – said some of the officers in the targeted regiment were newly mobilized.
“Mobilized servicemen with minimal training and degraded morale in the role of officers are likely contributing to poor operational security practices and lack the basic acumen to make sound tactical and operational decisions,” the assessment says.
Contributing: Maureen Groppe, USA TODAY; The Associated Press