The Russian president says Moscow is ready to negotiate and accuses “geopolitical opponents” of trying to divide Russia.
President Vladimir Putin said that the Russian offensive in Ukraine is being carried out to “unite the Russian people”.
Putin used the concept of “historic Russia” to say in an interview aired Sunday that Ukrainians and Russians are one people as he sought to justify his 10-month offensive on Ukraine and undermine Ukrainian sovereignty.
“geopolitical opponents of Russia.” [were] with the aim of tearing apart Russia, historical Russia,” Putin said in excerpts from the program for the national television Russia 1.
“Divide and rule, that’s what they’ve always tried to achieve and are still trying to do,” Putin said.
But our goal is different: it is to unite the Russian people,” the Russian president added.
Putin reiterated that Moscow was ready to negotiate, but said that Ukraine and its Western allies had refused to hold talks.
The death toll is rising
In southern Ukraine, the death toll from Russian airstrikes on the city of Kherson rose to 16 and 64 people were injured, Ukraine’s military governor of the region said on Sunday, as air raid sirens sounded across the country on Christmas Day.
Among the dead are three men who died while clearing mines, Jaroslav Janusevic reported on Telegram.
On Saturday, the Ukrainian military counted 71 attacks on the partially retaken area, including 41 on its main urban area.
Despite Russia’s withdrawal from the city, Kherson is still within range of Moscow’s weapons and under constant threat.
Pope Francis appealed for an end to the “senseless” war in Ukraine during his traditional Christmas message from St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on Sunday.
“May the Lord inspire us to offer concrete gestures of solidarity to help all those who suffer, and may he enlighten the minds of those who have the power to silence the thunder of weapons and immediately end this senseless war,” said the head of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Associated Press news agency reported on Sunday that some Ukrainians, who, like Russians, usually celebrate Christmas on January 7, have changed their traditions in response to the Russian war.
The agency announced that some Orthodox Ukrainians decided to observe the festival celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25 as members of Western Christian churches.
In October, the leadership of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which is not aligned with the Russian Church and is one of two branches of Orthodox Christianity in the country, agreed to allow believers to celebrate on December 25.
“What started on February 24, the full-scale invasion, is an awakening and an understanding that we can no longer be part of the Russian world,” Olena Palij, a 33-year-old resident of Bobrica near Kiev, told AP.