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June 19, 2024
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Russia-Ukraine war live: Zelenskiy dismisses Russian ceasefire, saying war will end ‘when your soldiers leave’

Ukraine leader calls ceasefire call a ‘trick’; US state department describes proposition as ‘cynical’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy rejected out of hand a Russian order for a truce over Russian Orthodox Christmas starting at noon on Friday and ending at midnight on Saturday. He said it was a trick to halt the progress of Ukraine’s forces in the eastern Donbas region and bring in more of Moscow’s forces.

“They now want to use Christmas as a cover, albeit briefly, to stop the advances of our boys in Donbas and bring equipment, ammunitions and mobilised troops closer to our positions,” Zelenskiy said in his Thursday night video address.

The US state department expressed skepticism over Putin’s announced ceasefire, describing it as “cynical” given Moscow’s New Year’s Day attack on Ukraine and saying the US had “little faith” in the announcement’s intentions.

Putin’s announcement came hours after the head of the Russian Orthodox church, Patriarch Kirill, called for a ceasefire and a Christmas truce in Ukraine. In a statement, Kirill said he appealed to “all parties involved in the internecine conflict” for the ceasefire, so that “Orthodox people can attend services on Christmas Eve and the day of the Nativity of Christ”.

Germany will join the US in supplying an additional Patriot air defence battery to Ukraine, the White House has announced, after the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, and the US president, Joe Biden, spoke by phone. The two leaders “expressed their common determination to continue to provide the necessary financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support to Ukraine for as long as needed”, the White House said in a statement.

The US believes that Vladimir Putin’s ally Yevgeny Prigozhin is interested in taking control of salt and gypsum mines near the Ukrainian-held city of Bakhmut, a White House official said on Thursday. There were indications that monetary motives were driving Russia’s and Prigozhin’s “obsession” with Bakhmut, the official added. Prigozhin is the owner of private Russian military company Wagner Group.

Germany’s economy minister, Robert Habeck, said Germany providing weapons to Ukraine was a “good decision” during a Thursday briefing. Habeck’s department has to approve weapons exports.

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