Moscow said a “Christmas ceasefire” was unlikely after nearly 10 months of war in Ukraine, where fighting appeared set to continue through the winter.
“The situation on the front line is not calm,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his regular evening video address on Wednesday. “Every day, every meter worked very hard. Especially the whole tactic of the occupiers boiled down to destroying everything in front of them with artillery – so that nothing remained on the ground but bare ruins and craters.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, asked on Wednesday whether Moscow had seen the proposal for a “Christmas ceasefire,” said: “No, no such proposal has been received from anyone. The topic is not on the agenda. “
Zelensky this week called on Russia to start withdrawing troops by Christmas as the first step towards a peace deal, but Peskov said on Tuesday that unless Zelensky accepted the “realities” on the ground – referring to Russian control , otherwise there would be no peace with Kyiv. It annexed parts of four Ukrainian regions in September following a forced and illegal “referendum”. After a series of lightning-fast Ukrainian counteroffensives, Kyiv regained control of roughly half the territory Moscow seized in the first weeks of its invasion.
Military analysts say there may now be a winter standoff as Russian forces struggle to capture the town of Bakhmut, although heavy fighting continues, especially in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby said the scale of the ongoing violence had dampened hopes of an imminent end to hostilities.
“Given what we’re seeing in Ukraine from the air and on the ground, it’s hard to say that this war will be over before the end of the year,” Kirby said in response to a question about the prospects for a negotiated peace with Russia. President Vladimir Putin. “So there’s an intense battle going on right now. We expect that to continue for some time.”
Separately, Canada said on Wednesday it would withdraw a sanctions waiver that allowed turbines for Nord Stream 1, Russia’s largest natural gas pipeline to Europe, to be repaired in Montreal before being shipped back to Germany.
The pipeline under the Baltic Sea was shut down for maintenance on August 31, but was not restarted. A month later, it was hit by a series of bombings and was badly damaged. Governments across Europe suspect that the pipeline rupture, as well as another pipeline called Nord Stream 2, were caused by vandalism. Putin called the West’s claim that Russia was behind the bombing “crazy”.
“Putin has been forced to demonstrate his intention to never return Nord Stream 1 to full operation, and the pipeline itself is no longer operational,” Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Jolly and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said in a statement. .”Joint Statement.
They said the decision was made after close cooperation with Ukraine, Germany and other European allies.
Despite the lack of peace talks, hundreds of prisoners have been released in recent weeks. The news — along with progress in talks to resume exports of Russian fertilizer ingredients and extend grain deals — suggests that the two sides have maintained limited engagement, at least on several levels.
Kyiv and Washington said Wednesday that dozens of detainees, including a U.S. citizen, were recently exchanged.
Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine’s presidency, referred to the American as Suedi Murekezi, who he said had been “helping our people” before being detained by Russia. The Washington Post reported that Murekzi was a Ugandan-born U.S. Air Force veteran.
Kirby did not name the freed Americans, citing privacy concerns, but said: “We certainly welcome the news.”
A comprehensive prisoner swap agreement could build confidence, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Wednesday. Mirjana Spoljaric said such exchanges had in the past constituted “a first step towards a broader agreement”.
The ICRC stressed that the two countries should reach an agreement on this issue. Neither the Red Cross nor both sides have released exact numbers of war detainees in each country, but there are believed to be thousands of such prisoners.
Ukraine has pressed for the return of more captives as part of talks with Russian representatives seeking to reopen an ammonia gas pipeline through Ukraine, Reuters reported. The pipeline is widely considered important in reducing world prices for fertilizers made from natural gas.