Russian and Ukrainian troops kept on exchanging fire on Friday, as a Christmas ceasefire declared by President Vladimir Putin failed to go into effect.

Reporters for the France-Presse AFP news agency in the Ukraine Armed Forces (UAF)-held eastern city Bakhmut reported hearing incoming and outgoing fire following a late Friday morning ceasefire start proposed by the Russian leader.

Multiple Ukrainian news platforms, among them the widely-read Blitsavka, reported heavy Russian infantry attacks backed by powerful artillery against Ukrainian positions in Bakhmut, throughout the day. The pro-Ukraine news platform Voina – Ukraina Rossiya Bakhmut placed online video purportedly showing Ukraine Armed Forces (UAF) Su-25 Hrach jets flying ground support missions in air space over the city.

Elements of the Russian mercenary group Wagner fought their way into the city Soledar, to the north of Bakhmut, in house-to-house battles lasting into Friday afternoon, the pro-Russia war correspondent Simen Pegov reported in his news platform WarGonzo. The pro-Ukraine information site Bakhmut-Soledar published video of UAF soldiers still in some sections of the city, as small arms exchanges and artillery strikes took place in the distance. 

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In the RF-held eastern city Donetsk, Ukrainian forces hit Russian positions with artillery “at least three times” following the Putin-ordered 11 A.M. start of the ceasefire, pro-Russia blogger Anatoly Shary said in a Telegram post. Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Ukraine-associated Donetsk regional defense command in an afternoon statement accused Russian forces of shelling the city Kurahove in direct violation of the ceasefire, hitting a hospital and injuring one civilian.

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The Russian army said Friday it was abiding by a temporary unilateral ceasefire in Ukraine from 0900 GMT as decreed by President Vladimir Putin and accused Ukrainian troops of shelling, AFP reported.

“Despite Russian forces respecting a ceasefire as of 12:00 pm on January 6, the Kyiv regime continued artillery fire on population centers and Russian army positions,” the defense ministry said on social media.

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Russian air force MiG-31 interceptor jets, an aircraft capable of carrying cruise missiles, took off from and landed at bases in Belarus throughout the day, triggering air raid warnings and school and public building evacuations across Ukraine. No missile launches towards Ukraine had been reported by 2:00 P.M.

Both Ukraine and Russia celebrate Christmas as a primarily religious holiday with church services held after midnight ending Jan. 6 and starting Jan. 7. Worship lasts 24 hours until the next midnight starting Jan. 8. 

Putin in a Thursday statement said Russian Federation (RF) troops would unilaterally cease fire at 11 A.M. on the 6th, in an attempt to “reduce hostility” between the two countries. As announced by Putin, the ceasefire would have lasted a total 37 hours.

Ukrainian senior officials led by President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday rejected the ceasefire outright, saying the Kremlin’s sole objective was to reduce Ukrainian attacks on Russian troops. If Moscow wants to stop the fighting, Russian troops should just leave Ukraine, they said. 

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