At the end of the Orthodox Christmas, missiles and airstrikes hit targets in Ukraine

Moscow said Ukrainian rocket attacks hit two power plants in the Russian-held Donetsk region early Sunday, while Moscow ended a self-declared Orthodox Christmas truce and bombed regions in northeastern Ukraine.

Himars missiles fired by Ukrainian forces partially damaged Elenovka and Starobeshevskaya thermal power plants, according to Russian state intelligence service Tass. The Ukrainian government has never publicly claimed responsibility for attacks inside Russia or on Russian-controlled territory.

Russia’s 36-hour unilateral lull in fighting ended at midnight on Saturday. However, Ukraine said Moscow failed to honor the ceasefire, which was framed by supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin as an attempt to respect the Orthodox Christmas, which falls on Jan. 7.

Ukrainian and Western officials dismissed the ceasefire as a Russian propaganda ploy to allow its forces to regroup after a series of battlefield setbacks.

“Today the world saw once again how wrong the words coming from Moscow are,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his usual evening address on Saturday. “They said something there about an alleged ceasefire. . . But the reality is that Russian shells hit Bakhmut and other Ukrainian positions again.”

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Russia’s defense ministry said Saturday its armed forces would honor the ceasefire. But Ukraine’s General Staff said on Sunday that Russian troops had been launching attacks along the front line throughout the weekend, including around the hotly contested town of Bakhmut.

Russian military bloggers claimed Russian forces had gained territory around the nearby town of Soledar, making it difficult for Ukraine to hold Bakhmut. A Ukrainian withdrawal there would be Moscow’s first military success after a series of Ukrainian counter-offensives pushed back Russian forces in the north-east and south of the country last summer.

In the northeast, a 50-year-old man was killed in the Kharkiv region in Russian airstrikes that took place minutes after midnight on Sunday morning, regional governor Oleh Sinehubov said on the messaging app Telegram.

“Last night the enemy launched two rocket attacks on the . . . Kharkiv district,” wrote Sinehubov. “The Russian invaders continue to try to improve their tactical position.”

In Kyiv, the head of Ukraine's main Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Epifaniy, celebrated the Christmas holiday on January 7 with a service at the Pechersk Lavra, one of the most important sites of Orthodoxy
The head of Ukraine’s main Orthodox Church will mark the Christmas holiday on January 7 with a service at the Pechersk Lavra, one of the main sites of Orthodoxy © Efrem Lukatsky/AP

The war, now in its 11th month, has killed tens of thousands on both sides, displaced millions of Ukrainians, reduced cities to rubble and has been dubbed a holy war by the Kremlin.

Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church and a strong supporter of Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine, led a Christmas service in Moscow and issued a televised message offering prayers for those killed in the fighting.

“Everything is being done in Ukraine to make Russia look like an enemy in the eyes of Ukrainians,” Kirill said.

In Kyiv, the head of Ukraine’s main Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Epifaniy, celebrated the Christmas holiday on January 7 with a service at the Pechersk Lavra, one of the most important sites of Orthodoxy.

The monastery has long been used by a Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, but the Ukrainian government said its lease expired late last year, so it was handed over to the Independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

“It is very important that sincere prayers for Ukraine have been and continue to be answered today [in the monastery]’ Zelenskyy said on Saturday. “This day has . . . become historic for Ukraine, for the spiritual independence of our people.”

https://www.ft.com/content/40b485c4-4198-44c4-8758-3dbb6994d7fa At the end of the Orthodox Christmas, missiles and airstrikes hit targets in Ukraine

Adam Bradshaw

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