(Update 1: adds Metropolitan Epiphanius statement in graph 4 and quote from Kyiv resident in graph 7)
Kyiv, Dec 7 (EFE).- Orthodox Christians in Kyiv flocked to mass to mark Christmas on Saturday as Russian forces continued to attack Ukrainian positions despite a 36-hour unilateral truce that expires at midnight.
The Christmas mass was led by the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan (Serhii Petrovych), and was held in Kyiv’s Dormition Cathedral for the first time after Ukraine’s culture ministry advised that the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra (a historic Eastern Orthodox monastery where the service is usually held) refrain from renewing its lease with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate.
Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7, according to the Julian calendar.
Metropolitan Epiphanius said that “this war convincingly proved what we have been talking about from the beginning: the Moscow Patriarchate is not so much a religious institution as a state agency of the Kremlin to control Orthodox life in Russia and abroad.”
He added that very few members of the Russian church publicly condemned Russia’s military aggression or Putin personally and expressed hope that this year brings “victory in the war with the evil empire and the year of achieving true peace.”
Although many Ukrainians decided to celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December for the first time this year to underline unity with most of the Christian world, a large number have still celebrated the feast on the 7th of January.
“I will postpone switching to a new date until the war is over. Anyway, having two Christmases for once is even better, right?” Kyiv resident, Olena, who preferred not to share her surname, told Efe.
On the occasion of the festivities, Russian president Vladimir Putin announced a unilateral 36-hour ceasefire on Thursday which runs until midnight on Saturday, but despite the truce, Moscow has confirmed it has continued to target Ukrainian positions in response to enemy attacks.
According to Russia’s defense ministry daily report, its forces have been “observing a ceasefire along the entire line of contact in the area of the special military operation since 12 noon Moscow time on 6 January.”
In the statement, the Kremlin accuses Kyiv of repeatedly attacking Russian positions and civilians and it adds that Russian forces will respect the truce until midnight.
The report says that Ukrainian troops carried out attacks against Russian positions in several towns in the Donetsk region, as well in the southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.
The Russian president on Thursday ordered a 36-hour ceasefire along the front lines in Ukraine during the Orthodox Christmas period.
The order came following a request from the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill.
Both Ukrainian authorities and the United States have accused Russian forces of not respecting the temporary ceasefire, although Moscow says its troops have only responded to enemy attacks.EFE