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    Putin says no Christmas ceasefire in Ukraine, Zelensky slams back

    Russia has ruled out a “Christmas ceasefire” after nearly 10 months of war in Ukraine and rejected a call by Kyiv to start withdrawing troops by Christmas as a sign it was willing to end Europe’s biggest conflict since World War Two.

    Russia and Ukraine are not currently engaged in talks to end the fighting, with both sides making little to no gains the last couple of months.


    But on Wednesday, December 14, Ukraine experienced the first major drone attack on Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv in weeks. Two administrative buildings were hit, but air defences largely repelled the attack. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said 13 drones had been shot down.

    Zelenskiy said this week that Russia should start withdrawing by Christmas as a step to end the conflict, but Moscow rejected the proposal, saying Ukraine must accept the loss of territory to Russia before any progress can be made.


     
    Asked on Wednesday whether Moscow had seen proposals for a “Christmas ceasefire,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “No, no such offers have been received from anybody. This topic is not on the agenda.”

    Tens of thousands of people have been killed, millions more displaced and cities reduced to rubble since Russia invaded its neighbour on Feb. 24, saying it needed to protect Russian speakers from Ukrainian far-right nationlists. Kyiv and its allies call it an unprovoked war of choice

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    Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky and his top commanders say they expect a new offensive by Russia early in the new year.

    Days after the Kremlin said Ukraine must recognize new realities, including Russia’s recent annexation of four Ukrainian regions, Zelensky repeated that Ukraine would make no concessions.


    In a series of interviews with The Economist, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky say they are in no mood to compromise on their ultimate goals. 


    Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 and months ago announced annexation of four Ukranian regions – Kherson, Zaporizhia, Donetsk and Luhansk even though they don’t completely control any of those areas.

    Ukraine has made territorial gains in recent months using US weapons and on Thursday, December 15, Zelensky repeated that Ukraine’s aim was to retrieve the land it held when it became independent in 199 including Crimea. 

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     “If he [Putin] now withdraws to the 1991 borders then the possible path of diplomats will begin. That is who can really turn the war from a military path to a diplomatic one. Only he can do it.” he sai


    Zelensky said some 95% of Ukrainian people do not want to compromise on territory. “The issue is deeper than land. No one wants to have a dialogue with these people who unleashed [the war].”  


    Zelensky added that it was “a little scary” to visit recently liberated towns and witness how the occupation had changed people. 


    “I must admit that this propaganda model of the Kremlin — it works.” It had changed Ukrainians in occupied territories. They were like “astronauts who cannot take off heavy helmets — limiting what they can see to unrelenting disinformation.” 

    The overall military commander in Ukraine, General Valery Zaluzhny, said he expected a new Russian offensive in the new year. 


    “They [Russian forces] are 100% being prepared,” he said. 


    A major Russian attack could come “in February, at best in March and at worst at the end of January”, he said. And it could come anywhere: in Donbas, where Putin is eager to capture the remainder of Donetsk province; in the south, towards the city of Dnipro; even towards Kyiv.

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