Jan 8 (Reuters) – Russian bombings in eastern Ukraine killed at least two people overnight, local officials said on Sunday, as Moscow ended a self-declared Christmas truce and vowed to continue the war until it achieves victory over its neighbours. .
President Vladimir Putin ordered a 36-hour ceasefire along the line of contact beginning at noon Friday to observe Russia and Ukraine’s Orthodox Christmas.
Ukraine rejected the ceasefire, and the General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said on Saturday that Russian troops had shelled dozens of positions and settlements on the front lines.
A 50-year-old man died in the northeastern part of Kharkiv as a result of Russian shelling, the region’s governor, Ole Sinehupov, said on the Telegram messaging app. The news came just after midnight in Moscow. Another overnight attack on Soledar in eastern Donetsk region killed one person, local officials said.
Reuters could not immediately verify this.
Like Orthodox Christians in Russia, most Ukrainian Orthodox Christians traditionally celebrate Christmas on January 7. But this year, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, the country’s largest, also allowed a December 25 celebration. However, many celebrated the holiday on Saturday, cramming into churches and cathedrals.
The Kremlin said Moscow would go ahead with an invasion that began on February 24 in what it called a “special military operation” in Ukraine, and what Kyiv and its Western allies call an unprovoked aggression to seize land.
“The tasks set by the president (Putin) for the special military operation will still be carried out,” Russian state-run TASS agency quoted Putin’s first deputy Sergey Kriyenko as saying.
“Surely there will be a victory.”
The war has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions of Ukrainians.
Ukrainian officials reported bombings in areas that make up the vast Donbass region – the frontline of the war, where fighting has been ongoing for months.
Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrilenko said there had been nine missile strikes overnight in the region, including seven on the stricken city of Kramatorsk.
Explosions were also heard in the city of Zaporizhzhia, the administrative center of Zaporizhzhia region, a local official said, without immediate reports of damage or casualties.
On Saturday, shellfire echoed through the deserted streets near the eastern city of Baghmut, the epicenter of the most intense fighting.
The governor of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, Serhii Haidai, said on television that heavy fighting was taking place in the region and that Russian forces had deployed their combat-ready units and heavy equipment to the city of Kriminna they occupy, meaning the Russians. The region is slowly receding.
As nighttime temperatures drop to minus 15-17 degrees Celsius (5 to 1 Fahrenheit), heavy frost makes it easier to move heavy equipment, and combat operations will soon increase, Haidai added.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday that Russia was planning a major new offensive. The Pentagon said Friday that while Putin’s military has continued to come under attack, his intent to seize Ukrainian territory has not changed.
Concerns are growing that Belarus – a staunch supporter of Moscow – could be used as a staging post to attack Ukraine from the north after increasing military operations in the country and redeploying Russian troops there.
Unofficial Telegram channels monitoring military operations 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 Lydia Kelly, David Lugren and Pavel Polityuk Writing by Lydia Kelly and Pavel Polityuk Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Frances Kerry
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