Moscow ends self-proclaimed ceasefire, vows to advance in Ukraine

Jan 8 (Reuters) – Russian bombing of eastern Ukraine killed at least two people overnight, local officials said on Sunday, after Moscow ended a self-declared Christmas ceasefire and vowed to keep fighting, until defeating the neighbors.

President Vladimir Putin has ordered a 36-hour ceasefire along the contact line from noon Friday to mark Orthodox Christmas in Russia and Ukraine on Saturday.

Ukraine has rejected a truce, and the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff said Russian troops shelled dozens of positions and settlements along the front on Saturday.

A 50-year-old man died in the northeastern region of Kharkiv as a result of overnight Russian shelling, the governor of the northeastern region of Kharkiv, Oleh Synehubov, said on the Telegram instant messaging app. The news came minutes after midnight in Moscow. One person was killed in another overnight attack in Soledad, a region east of Donetsk, local officials said.

Reuters could not immediately confirm this.

Most Ukrainian Orthodox Christians traditionally celebrate Christmas on January 1st. 7. Like the Orthodox Christians in Russia. But this year, the largest Ukrainian Orthodox church in the country also allowed it in December. 25 celebrations. Still, many people celebrated the holiday on Saturday, flocking to churches and cathedrals.

The Kremlin said Moscow would advance what it called a “special military operation” in Ukraine, the incursion it launched on Feb. 21. 24 Kyiv and its Western allies called it an unwarranted land-grabbing aggression.

“The tasks set by the president (Putin) for special military operations will still be fulfilled,” Russian state TASS news agency quoted Putin’s first deputy chief of staff Sergei Kiriyenko as saying.

“And there must be victory.”

The war has killed tens of thousands and displaced millions of Ukrainians.

Ukrainian officials reported that the explosion occurred in the wider Donbass region – the front line of the war, where fighting has been going on for months.

Donetsk region governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said there were nine missile strikes in the region overnight, seven of which hit the devastated city of Kramatorsk.

Explosions were also heard in the city of Zaporozhye, the administrative center of the Zaporozhye region, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties, a local official said.

On Saturday, artillery fire echoed through the nearly deserted streets of Bahmut, the eastern city currently the focus of the fiercest fighting.

Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Lugansk in eastern Ukraine, said on television that fierce fighting had taken place in the region and that the Russian army had deployed its most combat-ready troops and heavy equipment to the city of Krimina they captured, which he said meant Russia The people retreated slowly in the area.

Combat activity will soon increase as nighttime temperatures drop to minus 15-17 degrees Celsius (5 to 1 degree Fahrenheit), as the cold means it will be easier to move heavy equipment, Haidai added.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday that Russia was planning a major new offensive. Putin’s goal of seizing Ukrainian territory has not changed, the Pentagon said on Friday, even as his troops continue to suffer.

Concerns are growing that Belarus – a staunch supporter of Moscow – could be used as a staging point for an attack on Ukraine from the north following increased military activity in the country and the new redeployment of Russian troops to the country.

An unofficial Telegram channel that monitors military activity in Belarus reported late Saturday that some 1,400-1,600 Russian troops had arrived in the northeastern Belarusian city of Vitebsk from Russia over the past two days.

Reuters could not independently verify the information.

Reporting by Lidia Kelly, David Ljuggren and Pavel Polityuk Reporting by Lidia Kelly and Pavel Polityuk Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Frances Kerry

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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