Russia says no Christmas ceasefire in Ukraine

KYIV: Russia exclude one”Christmas truce” after nearly 10 months of war in Ukraine and rejecting Kyiv’s calls to begin a Christmas withdrawal as a step toward ending Europe’s biggest conflict since World War Two.
Russia and Ukraine are not currently engaged in negotiations to end the fighting that is raging in the east and south with little movement on either side.
Violence returned to Kyiv on Wednesday, with the first major drone strike on the Ukrainian capital in weeks. Two administrative buildings were attacked, but the air defenses largely repelled the attack. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said 13 drones had been shot down.
In a district of Kyiv, where the ground is covered with snow, residents said they heard the loud screeching engine of an Iranian Shahed drone, followed by a massive explosion at a nearby building. their houses.
“I want all of this to end… Because (Russian President .) vladimia) Putin, that bastard, die,” said Yana, 39, who was getting ready to go to work when the attack happened.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed, millions more displaced and cities reduced to rubble since Russia invaded the neighboring country on February 24, saying it needs to protect Russian-speaking people. from the Ukrainian far-right nationalists. Kiev and its allies call it a gratuitous war.
“There is no quiet on the front lines,” Zelenskyy said in a routine video speech in the evening, describing Russia’s destruction of towns in the east with artillery “so that only rubble and bomb craters”.
Asked on Wednesday whether Moscow had seen proposals for a “Christmas truce”, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “No, no such offer has been received. from anyone. This topic is not on the agenda.”
Zelenskyy this week said that Russia should start withdrawing its troops before Christmas as a step to end the conflict, but Moscow rejected the proposal, saying Ukraine must accept the loss of territory to Russia before it can achieve anything. any progress.
“Given what we’re seeing in the air and on the ground in Ukraine, it’s hard to conclude that this war will be over by the end of the year,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby said. . a negotiated peace.
Russia, which calls the war a “special military operation,” has fired a series of missiles at energy infrastructure since October, disrupting electricity supplies and leaving Ukrainians without heat. warm in cold winter conditions.
In a move that will significantly boost Ukraine’s air defenses, US officials told Reuters this week that a decision to supply the Patriot missile system to Ukraine’s military could be announced as soon as Thursday. .
The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the United States is also planning to send a device that converts unguided aerial munitions into smart bombs, allowing for high-precision targeting.
The Kremlin said US Patriot systems would be a legitimate target and warned that Washington was “increasingly mired in conflict in the post-Soviet republic”.
Dmytro Lubinets, Ukraine’s parliamentary commissioner for human rights, said 12,000 Ukrainian children have been brought to Russia since the invasion began in February, including 8,600 by force.
He said Ukrainian investigators had discovered a cell where the Russian military held and abused children in Kherson, a southern city abandoned by pro-Moscow forces last month.
Lubinets did not provide proof of his claims, and Reuters was unable to immediately confirm his account. Russia denies targeting civilians and denies committing war crimes.
Despite the lack of peace talks, hundreds of detainees have been released in recent weeks. The announcement – along with progress in negotiating the resumption of exports of an ingredient in Russian fertilizers and the extension of the grain deal – suggests that the two sides maintain communication at least limited on some levels.
Kiev and Washington said the latest exchange of dozens of detainees included a US citizen.
The head of the Ukrainian presidential administration, Andriy Yermak, identified Americans as Suedi Murekezi, who he said had “helped our people” before being detained by Russia. The Washington Post reports that Murekezi is a former US Air Force veteran born in Uganda.
“We certainly welcome that news,” Kirby told reporters, without naming the freed American, citing privacy concerns.
The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross on Wednesday said a prisoner of war exchange deal was an option in the Ukraine-Russia conflict. The ICRC stressed that reaching an agreement on this matter is up to the two countries.
ICRC President Mirjana Spoljaric said a major swap could build trust and that such exchanges in the past constituted “the first step towards a broader agreement”.
Neither the Red Cross nor either side has made public the exact numbers of each country’s war detainees, but it is believed that there are thousands of such prisoners.
Ukraine has pushed for the return of more detainees as part of talks with Russian representatives to find a way to reopen the ammonia gas pipeline through Ukraine, Reuters reported. The pipeline is considered by many to be important in lowering world prices for gas-based fertilizers.


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