Putin’s directive to his troops came days after Moscow suffered its deadliest loss from the invasion, following 11 months of brutal fighting, and as Ukraine’s allies indicated new military aid was on the way.

Both nations celebrate Orthodox Christmas and the Russian leader’s order followed calls for a ceasefire by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russia’s spiritual leader Patriarch Kirill, a staunch Putin supporter.

“Taking into account the appeal of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, I instruct the Defense Minister of the Russian Federation to introduce… a ceasefire along the entire line of contact between the parties in Ukraine,” a statement from the Russian Federation said. Kremlin.

It will run from 12:00 (09:00 GMT) on January 6 to 24:00 (21:00 GMT) on January 7, the Kremlin said.

Kyiv quickly denounced the move.

Russia “must leave the occupied territories; only then will you have a ‘temporary truce,’” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter. “Keep the hypocrisy to yourself.”

US President Joe Biden was equally dismissive of Putin’s announcement.

“I was ready to bomb hospitals, day care centers and churches” on December 25 and on New Year’s Day, he said. “I think he’s trying to find some oxygen.”

And German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock wrote on Twitter: “The so-called ceasefire provides neither freedom nor security for people living in daily fear under Russian occupation.”

– Orthodox Christmas –

Russia occupies parts of eastern and southern Ukraine after 11 months of fighting, but Kyiv has claimed swaths of its territory and this week claimed responsibility for a New Year’s attack that killed dozens of Moscow soldiers.

After votes that were internationally branded shams, Russia annexed the Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions despite not fully controlling them.

Putin is open to dialogue with Ukraine if Kyiv acknowledges “the new territorial realities,” the Kremlin said, in a summary of its telephone conversation with Erdogan on Thursday.

“The Russian side emphasized the destructive role of Western states, pumping the Kyiv regime with weapons and military equipment, providing it with operational information and targets,” it added.

The Kremlin’s response was aimed at calling for a ceasefire by Russia’s spiritual leader, Patriarch Kirill, an outspoken Putin supporter.

The 76-year-old Orthodox leader has given his blessing to Russian troops fighting in Ukraine and delivered strongly anti-Western and anti-Kyiv sermons throughout the conflict.

Kirill made his appeal “so that the Orthodox can attend services on Christmas Eve and on the day of the Nativity of Christ,” he said on the church’s official website on Thursday.

The Kremlin’s decision to send troops to Ukraine in February 2022 turned many clerics who had remained loyal to Kirill away from Moscow.

In May, the Moscow-backed branch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church severed ties with Russia, citing its lack of condemnation of the fighting.

– More weapons for Ukraine –

The news of Putin’s ceasefire order came as German government sources told AFP on Thursday that both Berlin and Washington were planning a “new qualitative step” in their arms deliveries to Ukraine.

“We are constantly looking at what else we can do in terms of military support,” Germany’s Baerbock told reporters on Thursday, including “defensive weapons” and weapons needed to “liberate occupied territory.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has faced fresh orders to deliver Leopard light tanks, long sought after by Kyiv, after French President Emmanuel Macron announced the delivery of French-made AMX-10 RC light tanks to Ukraine.

Macron’s announcement on Wednesday made France the first Western country to announce delivery of such weapons to Ukraine.

“The argument constantly put forward by the chancellery that Germany should not act alone is absolutely out of date,” said Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, who heads the German parliament’s defense committee.

“France is once again taking on the role expected of Germany and going it alone,” he told AFP.

– Worst individual loss –

Putin’s ceasefire order came a day after Moscow raised the reported death toll to 89 in its worst reported loss from a Ukrainian attack.

Ukraine’s military strategic communications unit said nearly 400 Russian soldiers were killed in the eastern Ukrainian city of Makiivka, held by pro-Russian forces. Even Russian commentators have said that the death toll may be much higher than the Kremlin figures.

The deadly Makiivka attack followed months of discontent within Russia towards the army following a series of battlefield defeats and a highly unpopular mobilization campaign.