Moscow’s plans for a 36-hour ceasefire in Ukraine over the Russian Orthodox Christmas holiday period will “do nothing to advance the prospects for peace”, the UK’s Foreign Secretary has said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered Moscow’s armed forces to observe the 36-hour ceasefire in Ukraine this weekend, when the Russian Orthodox Church, which uses the ancient Julian calendar, celebrates Christmas on January 7.
Moscow said its decision followed a call earlier in the day from the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill. The Kremlin said large numbers of Orthodox believers live in the combat areas.
Mr Cleverly responded on Twitter by reiterating his call for Russia to permanently withdraw its forces and relinquish territory it has taken from Ukraine.
He said: “A 36 hour pause of Russian attacks will do nothing to advance the prospects for peace. Russia must permanently withdraw its forces, relinquish its illegal control of Ukrainian territory and end its barbaric attacks against innocent civilians.”
Ukraine’s foreign affairs minister Dmytro Kuleba said: “President (Volodymyr) Zelensky has proposed a clear peace formula of 10 steps.
“Russia has been ignoring it and instead shelling Kherson on Christmas Eve, launching mass missile and drone strikes on new year. Their current ‘unilateral ceasefire’ cannot and should not be taken seriously.”
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted that Russian forces “must leave the occupied territories – only then will it have a ‘temporary truce.’ Keep hypocrisy to yourself”.
The head of Ukraine’s National Security Council, Oleksiy Danilov, told Ukrainian TV: “We will not negotiate any truces with them.”
Mr Zelensky had proposed a Russian troop withdrawal earlier, before December 25, but Russia rejected it.
Mr Cleverly, speaking at a press conference in London alongside German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock, said tanks “may well be part” of future support for Ukraine, but stopped short of committing the UK to sending them.
He said: “We have been providing the kind of military equipment that is able to put a decisive… punch against Russian targets at range.
“We will continue to speak with the Ukrainians about what they need for the next phase of their self-defence and we will continue working with our international partners about ensuring that we provide that.
“Tanks might well be part of that. Where they come from, which allies provide them, is something that of course we are working on in co-ordination with each other.
“The way we have supported the Ukrainians has evolved as the conflict has evolved, and we will continue to evolve our support to ensure that it is effective and we will continue to work with our allies to make sure that support is co-ordinated.”