According to state information, the Russian air defense has repelled another drone attack on the Crimean peninsula. In the midst of the Russian war of aggression, Vladimir Putin celebrates Orthodox Christmas alone in the Kremlin church. A Lukashenko expert believes that Belarus may soon enter the war. All news about the Ukraine war can be found in the Newsticker.

10:39 p.m .: The head of the Russian Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, justified the fierce fighting for Bakhmut in Donetsk with underground “tunnel systems” in which troops and tanks could find shelter.

“The icing on the cake is the Soledar and Bakhmut mining system, which is actually a network of underground cities,” Prigozhin said on Saturday, according to Reuters via Telegram.

And further: “Not only can it accommodate a large group of people at a depth of 80 to 100 meters, but tanks and armored personnel carriers can also move in it.” Weapons have been stored in these tunnels since the First World War. Bachmut is an important logistics center with unique defensive positions.

9:12 p.m .: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj has declared the ceasefire declared by Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin over the Orthodox Christmas celebrations to have failed. “The world was able to see once again how false statements from Moscow are at every level,” said the 44-year-old in his video message on Saturday evening – shortly before the promised ceasefire period announced by Putin was supposed to officially end at 10:00 p.m. CET.

“They said something about an alleged ceasefire, but the reality is that Russian shells again hit Bakhmut and other Ukrainian positions,” Zelenskyy said. “Once again it has been confirmed: Only the expulsion of the Russian occupiers from Ukrainian lands and the elimination of all possibilities for Russia to put pressure on Ukraine and all of Europe will mean the restoration of a ceasefire, security and peace.”

On Thursday, Putin unilaterally ordered a 36-hour ceasefire, citing Christmas, which many Orthodox Christians celebrate on January 7, as the reason. Kyiv rejected the Russian advance as hypocritical from the start, and many international observers also spoke of a pure propaganda gesture. Even while the ceasefire was officially in place, Moscow admitted that it would continue to retaliate against Ukrainian attacks. According to Ukrainian sources, two civilians also died as a result of Russian shelling in the city of Bakhmut in the eastern region of Donetsk.

Once again, Zelenskyj wished the Ukrainians a Merry Christmas in his speech. He was pleased that so many people had attended the service in the Kiev Pechersk Lavra that morning, he explained. In the church, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the new Orthodox Church in Ukraine celebrated a Christmas mass – and for the first time in decades it was in Ukrainian instead of Russian.

8.45 p.m .: After the promised delivery of Marder tanks, the desire for a delivery of Leopard 2 main battle tanks is getting louder in Ukraine. Shortly before Christmas, ex-Ukraine ambassador Andriy Melnyk spoke of a “tank alliance”. The President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, also said on Saturday when she attended the CSU state group retreat that she was in favor of the supply of Leopard tanks demanded by the CSU and politicians from other parties.

Germany is still rejecting the leopard wish, but there are allegedly signals that several EU countries could join a joint initiative with Germany. According to “Forbes”, several NATO countries could part with the main battle tanks without reducing their defense capabilities.

According to the information, Poland, Finland and Denmark in particular are not averse to a “tank alliance”.

7:25 p.m .: SPD leader Lars Klingbeil has emphasized the determination and unity of the West towards Russia. “In the last few weeks, Russia has escalated the war again with massive attacks on the infrastructure,” Klingbeil told the editorial network Germany (RND). America, France and Germany now took the next step together to support Ukraine in defending its territorial integrity. “The delivery of armored personnel carriers is a signal that the western alliance is acting in close coordination and is continuing to back Ukraine,” said Klingbeil. He added: “I am sure that the year 2023 will be decisive for the course of the war.”

The SPD chairman also pointed out that US President Biden and Chancellor Scholz are in constant exchange “to assess this war and advise on how we can support it”. The ring exchange was successful, now further steps followed.

5:37 p.m .: The Belarusian opposition politician Pavel Latuschka, who lives in exile in Warsaw, believes it is possible that Belarus could intervene alongside Russia in the war of aggression against Ukraine. “The census of all conscripts in Belarus is practically complete,” Latuschka told the editorial network Germany (RND).

The Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko only needs to press the button on orders from the Kremlin to start mobilizing, said Latushka, who used to be his country’s culture minister and is now a member of the cabinet in exile of the Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaya.

Almost all employees who report to the Belarusian Ministry of the Interior have been asked to hand in their passports. “This means that these people will no longer be able to leave the territory of Belarus if they are mobilized,” said Latuschka.

One can observe that the Russian military presence in Belarus is constantly growing. This affects both the number of soldiers and the military equipment. “Military exercises of the Russian armed forces, including exercises on cooperation between the armed forces of Russia and Belarus, are held regularly,” Latushka said. Exercises by the air forces of both countries are planned for the near future.

2:17 p.m .: Despite the unilateral ceasefire ordered by Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin, Russia’s army said it responded to Ukrainian attacks during the Orthodox Christmas. “All positions of the Ukrainian army from which the shelling was fired were crushed by Russian forces returning fire,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Saturday. There were combat operations in the Donetsk, Cherson and Zaporizhia regions. Regardless, Konashenkov claimed Russia is adhering to the self-imposed 36-hour ceasefire, which was officially due to end at 10:00 p.m. ET on Saturday night.

Putin announced the temporary ceasefire on Thursday, citing the Christmas festival that many Orthodox Christians celebrate on January 7th. Ukraine, however, rejected this as a hypocritical propaganda gesture and continued its attempts at reconquest. There can be no peace as long as Russian troops occupy Ukrainian territory, sources in Kyiv said.

Many international observers also doubted from the start that the Russian arms would really remain silent. According to estimates by British intelligence services, the fighting continued at the usual level during the orthodox Christmas period.

12.47 p.m .: According to British secret services, the fighting in Ukraine will continue at the usual level even during the orthodox Christmas period. One of the hardest-fought areas is still around the city of Kreminna in the Luhansk region, according to the British Defense Ministry’s daily briefing on Saturday. “For the past three weeks, fighting around Kreminna has focused on the densely forested area west of the city.”

Since the forests offered some privacy from aerial observation, even in winter, both sides would likely have difficulty timing artillery fire accurately. As usual, infantrymen would be deployed in the forest areas – soldiers who primarily fight on foot and at close range.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had unilaterally ordered a Christmas ceasefire, which many saw as a cynical propaganda gesture. Officially, the Russian ceasefire was supposed to last until 10:00 p.m. CET on Saturday evening, but continued hostilities were reported as early as Friday.

11:14 a.m .: Russian President Vladimir Putin has celebrated the first Orthodox Christmas since his army invaded Ukraine on the Kremlin premises. Photos and footage distributed by Russian state media on Saturday show the 70-year-old standing in the Annunciation Cathedral in the presence of sacristans.

According to a Kremlin statement, Putin, who ordered the war of aggression against the neighboring country more than ten months ago, said: “This bright, beloved holiday inspires people to good deeds and endeavors and serves to promote spiritual values ​​and moral guidelines that are imperishable in society as affirming mercy, compassion, goodness and justice.”

The Kremlin chief also thanked the Russian Orthodox Church for its role in society. Its influential leader, Patriarch Kirill, is considered an ardent supporter of the war against Ukraine, in which thousands of civilians have been killed and many more injured. Since the autumn, the Russian army has also been targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, which is why many people are temporarily or permanently without heating, electricity and water supplies during the cold season.

Against this background, many observers see a unilateral Christmas ceasefire ordered by Putin as a cynical propaganda gesture. Officially, the Russian cease-fire was supposed to last until 10:00 p.m. CET on Saturday evening, but continued hostilities were reported.

5:32 a.m .: In the middle of the Russian war of aggression, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj sent his compatriots a message for Orthodox Christmas. “This is a holiday of harmony and family unity. And together we are all one big Ukrainian family,” he said in a video released Friday night. Several Orthodox churches traditionally celebrate Christmas on January 7th.

More than 300 days after the Russian invasion, the Ukrainian family is united like never before – “in their courage, their steadfastness, their mutual respect and their mutual help,” said Zelenskyj, who is in the video in a festively decorated hall and a military green one wears a shirt with small armor embroidered on it.

The United States has meanwhile promised further military aid to the attacked country – it is the largest single package of this kind since the beginning of the war, according to Washington. Germany, in turn, wants to deliver its promised Marder armored personnel carriers from the Bundeswehr stocks.

Saturday, January 7, 2023, 4:13 a.m .: According to state information, the Russian air defense has again repelled a drone attack on the Crimean Peninsula, which has been annexed by Moscow since 2014. The unmanned flying object was shot down early on Saturday morning over a pier near Sevastopol, the naval base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, the city’s governor, Mikhail Rasvozhayev, wrote in his Telegram channel, according to the Tass state agency. The port has been the target of Ukrainian drone attacks on several occasions, most recently on January 4 when two drones were shot down.

Despite the ceasefire unilaterally announced by Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin on the occasion of Orthodox Christmas, renewed fighting broke out in Ukraine. The 36-hour ceasefire, which was due to begin Friday noon Moscow time (10:00 a.m. CET), would have been the first ceasefire along the entire frontline since Russia’s war of aggression began on February 24 last year. The Orthodox Churches of Ukraine traditionally celebrate Christmas on January 7th.

Rasvozhayev further complained that even the “Holy Christmas” could not prevent the “inhuman beings” from “attacking our hero city”. Ukraine had rejected the ceasefire on the occasion of the Orthodox Christmas celebrations as a hypocritical diversionary maneuver by the Russian attackers. On Friday, the air alert was in place for the entire Ukraine for around two hours – despite the ceasefire. Meanwhile, according to Tass, Putin attended an Orthodox Christmas service in the Kremlin’s Cathedral of the Annunciation.

Russia supplies its occupying forces in southern Ukraine primarily through Crimea. Ukraine is therefore repeatedly targeting logistical and military targets on the peninsula. The recovery of Crimea is also one of Kiev’s declared goals after the Russian war of aggression has increasingly stalled in recent months. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated that this could be done through diplomatic or military channels.

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