Senior Ukrainian officials have dismissed Vladimir Putin’s proposal of a 36-hour “ceasefire” as “hypocritical” and a “cynical trap”.
The Kremlin said on Thursday that the Russian President had ordered the army to observe a 36-hour ceasefire in Ukraine from noon on January 6 to midnight on January 7.
Many Orthodox Christians, including those living in Russia and Ukraine, celebrate Christmas on January 6 and 7.
The order follows a proposal by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, earlier in the day.
But Ukraine’s presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak dismissed Kirill's call as "a cynical trap and an element of propaganda”.
He cast the Russian Orthodox Church as a "war propagandist" that had incited the "mass murder" of Ukrainians and the militarisation of Russia.
"The statement of the Russian Orthodox Church about the 'Christmas Truce' is a cynical trap and an element of propaganda," he said.
Defence minister Sergei Shoigu said: “Based on the fact that a large number of citizens professing Orthodoxy live in the combat areas, we call on the Ukrainian side to declare a cease-fire and give them the opportunity to attend services on Christmas Eve, as well as on the Day of the Nativity of Christ.”
It comes just ten months after Putin ordered a bloody invasion of Ukraine, costing thousands of civilian and military lives.
The Russian Army has failed to meet its key objective of capturing Kyiv and has recently been forced to retreat from swathes of occupied territory in the south following successful Ukrainian counterattacks.
Putin on Thursday spoke by phone with Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who urged him to implement a "unilateral cease-fire," according to a statement from the Turkish president's office.
The Kremlin said Putin "reaffirmed Russia's openness to a serious dialogue" with Ukrainian authorities, but with the precondition that Kyiv that "recognises new territorial realities," referring to Moscow's insistence that Ukraine recognises. Crimea as part of Russia and other illegally occupied territories.
Previous attempts at peace talks have failed as Ukraine demands that Russia withdraw from all of the territory it has occupied since last year, at the very least.
Jens Stoltenberg, the head of Nato, on Thursday said he saw no change in Moscow’s stance on Ukraine, insisting that the Kremlin "wants a Europe where they can control a neighboring country."
"We have no indications that President Putin has changed his plans, his goals for Ukraine," he said.