February 4, 2023

Filipino Guardian

Sentinels of Filipino Free Press

Russia says no Christmas truce in Ukraine

Army soldier figures are displayed against the background of the Ukrainian and Russian flag colors in this February 13, 2022 illustration. – REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION

Kyiv – Russia ruled out a “Christmas truce” after nearly 10 months of war in Ukraine and rejected a call by Kiev to start withdrawing troops by Christmas in a bid to end Europe’s biggest conflict since World War II.

Russia and Ukraine are not holding talks to end the fighting raging in the east and south, with little movement on either side.

Violence returned to Kyiv on Wednesday, with the first major drone attack on the Ukrainian capital in weeks. Two administration buildings were hit, 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 snow lay on the ground, residents said they heard the loud hum of an Iranian Shahed drone’s engine, followed by a powerful explosion in a building next to their homes.

“I want this all to be over…so that[Russian President Vladimir]Putin dies, that bastard,” said Yana, 39, who was getting ready for work when the attack took place.

Tens of thousands have been killed, millions displaced and cities reduced to rubble since Russia invaded its neighboring country on February 24 and said it must protect Russian speakers from far-right Ukrainian nationalists. Kyiv and its allies are calling it an unprovoked war of choice.

“There is no peace at the front,” Zelenskyy said in a regular evening video address, describing Russia’s artillery destruction of cities in the east, “leaving only bare ruins and craters.”

Asked Wednesday whether Moscow had seen any proposals for a “Christmas truce,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, “No, no one has made any such offers. This issue is not on the agenda.”

Zelenskyy said this week that Russia should start withdrawing by Christmas to end the conflict, but Moscow rejected the proposal, saying Ukraine must accept losing territory to Russia before any progress could be made.

“Given what we’re seeing in the air and on the ground in Ukraine, it’s difficult to conclude that this war will be over by the end of the year,” said John Kirby, White House national security spokesman , to a question about the prospects for a negotiated peace.

Russia, which has described the war as a “special military operation,” has fired volleys of missiles at energy infrastructure since October, cutting off power and leaving Ukrainians without heating in freezing winter conditions.

In a move that would significantly strengthen Ukraine’s air defenses, US officials told Reuters this week that a decision on the delivery of the Patriot missile system to Ukraine’s military could be announced as early as Thursday.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the United States also plans to send equipment that will convert unguided airborne munitions into smart bombs and provide high levels of targeting accuracy.

The Kremlin said US patriot systems were legitimate targets and warned that Washington was “getting deeper and deeper into the conflict in the post-Soviet republic.”

Dmytro Lubinets, human rights commissioner in Ukraine’s parliament, said 12,000 Ukrainian children had been taken to Russia since the invasion began in February, including 8,600 by force.

He said Ukrainian investigators had uncovered a cell where Russian troops had imprisoned and abused children in Kherson, a southern city abandoned by pro-Moscow forces last month.

Lubinets provided no evidence to back up his claims, and Reuters could not immediately confirm his account. Russia denies attacks on civilians and rejects war crimes allegations.

Despite the lack of peace talks, hundreds of prisoners have been freed in exchange in recent weeks. The releases — along with progress on talks to resume Russian exports of an ingredient in fertilizers and extend a grain deal — have shown that the two sides have at least limited contacts at several levels.

The latest exchange of dozens of detainees involved a US citizen, Kyiv and Washington announced on Wednesday.

The head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, Andriy Yermak, identified the American as Suedi Murekezi, who he said “helped our people” before falling into Russian custody. The Washington Post said Mr. Murekezi is a US Air Force veteran who was born in Uganda.

“We certainly welcome this news,” Kirby told reporters, but did not name the freed American, citing privacy concerns.

The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Wednesday an “all-for-all” deal to exchange prisoners of war is an option in the Ukraine-Russia conflict. The ICRC stressed that it was up to the two countries to reach an agreement on the issue.

ICRC President Mirjana Spoljaric said a larger exchange could inspire trust and that such an exchange has historically been “the first step towards a broader agreement”.

Neither the Red Cross nor the two sides have released exact figures for each country’s prisoners of war, but it is believed that there are thousands of such prisoners.

Ukraine has been pushing for the repatriation of more prisoners amid talks with Russian officials seeking to reopen an ammonia gas pipeline through Ukraine, Reuters reported. The pipeline is widely seen as important in bringing down world prices for fertilizer made with the gas. – Reuters