Biden says Putin looking for ‘oxygen’ with 36-hour ceasefire

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President Biden said Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call for a temporary, Christmas ceasefire is an effort to “find some oxygen,” dismissing that the Kremlin is serious about finding an off ramp for its assault against Ukraine.

The president said he was “reluctant to respond to anything Putin says,” but characterized the Kremlin as cynically attacking civilians over the December holidays.

“He was ready to bomb hospitals and nurseries and church’s on the 25th and New Years — I mean, I think he’s trying to find some oxygen,” Biden said.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price expanded on Biden’s remarks, saying the administration views Russia’s call for a ceasefire as a “cynical ploy… to rest, to refit, to regroup, and ultimately to re-attack, to re-attack with potentially even more vengeance, even more brutality, even more lethality, if they had their way.”

Price further said that the administration has not seen any indication that Russia was open to negotiations or any diplomacy.

In a statement posted to the Kremlin’s website, Putin said he would implement a 36-hour ceasefire to occur on Orthodox Christmas, from noon on Friday and through Saturday, and called on Kyiv to do the same.

“Based on the fact that a large number of citizens professing Orthodoxy live in the combat areas, we call on the Ukrainian side to declare a cease-fire and give them the opportunity to attend services on Christmas Eve, as well as on the Day of the Nativity of Christ,” Putin’s order, published on the Kremlin’s website, reads.

Putin called for the ceasefire “along the entire line of contact between the parties in Ukraine.”

Ahead of the ceasefire statement, Putin spoke by phone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, calling for Kyiv to answer its demands as a condition for dialogue, per a statement published by the Kremlin.

“Vladimir Putin again reaffirmed that Russia is open to a serious dialogue – under the condition that the Kiev authorities meet the clear demands that have been repeatedly laid out, and recognise the new territorial realities,” the statement read.

The Turkish presidency said in a statement that Erdogan told Putin that peace efforts should be supported by a unilateral Russian ceasefire and a “vision for a fair solution.”

An aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Mykhailo Podolyak, said the Putin’s call for a Christmas truce “is a cynical trap and an element of propaganda.”

Russia has prosecuted its assault on Ukraine for over 10 months and has in recent months increased its missile barrage on Kyiv and other areas of the country beyond the frontlines of fighting – and that intensified on New Years Eve – killing and wounding civilians and targeting critical infrastructure disrupting heat, electricity and water delivery

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