Russia's announced unilateral Christmas ceasefire is likely to be an information operation intended to damage Ukraine’s reputation, says the Institute for the Study of War.
Vladimir Putin instructed Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu to initiate a ceasefire from 12:00 January 6 to 24:00 January 7 along the "entire line of contact" between parties in Ukraine.
Ukrainian and Western officials immediately highlighted the hypocrisy of the ceasefire announcement and emphasized that Russian forces launched over 40 missiles at Ukrainian cities on December 25, when many Ukrainians celebrate Christmas.
Putin could have been seeking to secure a 36-hour pause for Russian troops to:
- rest, recoup, and reorient to relaunch offensive operations in critical sectors of the front;
- frame Ukrainian forces as unwilling to work towards peace and wanting to fight at all costs;
- frame Ukraine as suppressing religious groups and positioning Putin as the true protector of the Christian faith.
This pause would disproportionately benefit Russian troops and begin to deprive Ukraine of the initiative.
Ukrainian forces reportedly conducted a successful counterattack as Russian forces continued offensive operations around Bakhmut over the past few days.
Russian sources refuted this report and claimed that Russian troops have advanced northeast and south of Bakhmut.
New satellite imagery by technology company Maxar shows the impact of fighting, revealing extensive destruction to buildings, homes, infrastructure and fields.
Watch the video in the player above.