AP

Ukraine hails US military aid as cease-fire said to falter

Jan 7, 2023, 3:48 AM | Updated: Jan 8, 2023, 7:12 am

People wait to board a steam train, which traditionally runs for a few days during Orthodox Christm...

People wait to board a steam train, which traditionally runs for a few days during Orthodox Christmas holidays in Lviv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Mykola Tys)

(AP Photo/Mykola Tys)

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s president praised the United States for including tank-killing armored vehicles in its latest multibillion-dollar package of military aid, saying they are “exactly what is needed” for Ukrainian troops locked in combat against Russian forces, even as both sides celebrated Orthodox Christmas on Saturday.

The White House announcement Friday of $3.75 billion in weapons and other aid for Ukraine and its European backers came as Moscow said its troops are observing a short Orthodox Christmas cease-fire.

Ukrainian officials denounced the unilateral 36-hour pause as a ploy and said it appeared to have been ignored by some of Moscow’s forces pressing ahead with the nearly 11-month invasion. Ukrainian officials reported Russian shelling attacks in the Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhzhia regions on Saturday.

Russia’s Defense Ministry insisted Saturday that its forces along the 1,100-kilometer (684-mile) front line were observing the Kremlin-ordered truce, but returned fire when attacked.

The latest package of U.S. military assistance was the biggest to date for Ukraine. For the first time, it included 50 Bradley armored vehicles and 500 of the anti-tank missiles they can fire. Germany also announced it would supply around 40 Marder armored personnel carriers and France promised wheeled AMX-10 RC tank destroyers.

Together, this week’s pledges were powerful signals that Ukraine can count on continued long-term Western aid against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s drive to dismember the country.

In his nightly televised address on Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed the U.S. aid package as “very powerful.”

“For the first time, we will get Bradley armored vehicles — this is exactly what is needed. New guns and rounds, including high-precision ones, new rockets, new drones. It is timely and strong,” he said.

He thanked U.S. President Joe Biden, U.S. lawmakers and “all the Americans who appreciate freedom, and who know that freedom is worth protecting.”

Celebrated by both Ukrainians and Russians, the Orthodox Christmas holiday also underscored the enmity that Russia’s invasion is precipitating between them.

In a revered cathedral in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, the Christmas service Saturday was delivered in the Ukrainian language — instead of Russian — for the first time in decades, highlighting how Ukraine is seeking to jettison Moscow’s remaining influences over religious, cultural and economic life in the country.

Ukraine’s government on Thursday took over administration of the Kyiv-Pechersk monastery’s Dormition Cathedral from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which had been loyal to the Russian Orthodox Church, and allowed the Ukrainian church to use it for the Christmas service.

The monastery complex is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The cathedral was built about 1,000 years ago, then reconstructed in the 1990s after being ruined in World War II.

“It’s an amazing moment,” said Alex Fesiak, among hundreds of worshippers who attended. “Previously this place — on Ukrainian territory, within Kyiv — has been linked to Moscow. Now we feel this is ours, this is Ukrainian. This is part of the Ukrainian nation.”

The Putin-ordered Christmas cease-fire that started Friday was first proposed by the Russian Orthodox Church’s Kremlin-aligned head, Patriarch Kirill. The Orthodox Church uses the Julian calendar and celebrates Christmas on Jan. 7. Putin’s order said a cease-fire would allow worshippers in combat zones to attend Christmas services.

But Ukrainian officials didn’t commit to following it and dismissed the move as a Russian ploy to buy time for its struggling invasion forces to regroup. Ukrainian and Western officials portrayed the announcement as a Russian attempt to grab the moral high ground and possibly snatch battlefield initiative and momentum from Ukrainian forces amid their counteroffensive of recent months.

The pause was due to end Saturday night — at midnight Moscow time, which is 11 p.m. in Kyiv.

The Ministry of Defense in Britain, a leading supplier of military aid to Ukraine, said Saturday in its daily readout on the invasion that “fighting has continued at a routine level into the Orthodox Christmas period.”

In the fiercely contested Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine, regional Gov. Serhiy Haidai reported continued Russian shelling and assaults. Posting Friday on Telegram, Haidai said that in the first three hours of the cease-fire, Russian forces shelled Ukrainian positions 14 times and stormed one settlement three times. The claim couldn’t be independently verified.

Ukrainian authorities on Saturday also reported attacks elsewhere in the previous 24 hours although it wasn’t clear whether the fighting was before or after the cease-fire’s start.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said Russian forces carried out a missile strike and 20 salvos with rockets, and targeted settlements in the east, northeast and south.

The head of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region on Saturday reported two civilian deaths the previous day from Russian strikes in the fiercely contested city of Bakhmut and to its north, in Krasna Hora.

In the southern Kherson region, Gov. Yaroslav Yanushevych said Saturday that Russian forces shelled 39 times on Friday, hitting houses and apartment buildings, as well as a fire station. One person was killed and seven others were wounded.

___

John Leicester in Le Pecq, France, and Elise Morton in London, contributed to this report.

___

Follow AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

___

This story has been corrected to show that the Ukrainian government took over the cathedral, not the monastery complex.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

A Gila monster is displayed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Dec. 14, 2018. A 34-year-old Color...

Associated Press

Colorado man dies after being bitten by pet Gila monster

A Colorado man has died after being bitten by his pet Gila monster in what would be a rare death by one of the desert lizards if the creature's venom turns out to have been the cause.

13 hours ago

Police clear the area following a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football Super Bowl celebr...

Associated Press

1 dead, many wounded after shooting at Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade

One person died after 22 people were hit by gunfire in a shooting at the end of the Kansas Chiefs' Super Bowl victory celebration Wednesday.

8 days ago

This image from House Television shows House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., banging the gavel after h...

Associated Press

GOP-led House impeaches Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas — by one vote — over border management

Having failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas the first time, House Republicans are determined to try again Tuesday.

9 days ago

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, right, and Kenya's Defense Minister Aden Duale, left, listen during...

Associated Press

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hospitalized with bladder issue

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been hospitalized following symptoms pointing to an “emergent bladder issue."

10 days ago

Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church, stands with his wife, Victoria Osteen, as he conducts a...

Associated Press

Woman firing rifle killed by 2 off-duty officers at Houston’s Lakewood Church run by Joel Osteen

A woman entered the Texas megachurch of Joel Osteen and started shooting with a rifle Sunday and was killed by two off-duty officers.

11 days ago

Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church, stands with his wife, Victoria Osteen, as he conducts a...

Sponsored Content by

A woman entered the Texas megachurch of Joel Osteen and started shooting with a rifle Sunday and was killed by two off-duty officers.

Sponsored Articles

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

Ukraine hails US military aid as cease-fire said to falter