Russia bombards eastern Ukraine as self-proclaimed Christmas ceasefire comes to an end

Russian troops bombarded eastern Ukraine early on Sunday, bringing an end to the 36-hour unilateral ceasefire that president Vladimir Putin ordered around Orthodox Christmas.

A 50-year-old man died in the northeastern region of Kharkiv as a result of Russia’s shelling, Oleh Sinehubov, the governor of the region said on the Telegram messaging app, sharing the news minutes after midnight in Moscow.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of the Donetsk region in Ukraine, said that there were nine missile strikes on the region overnight, including seven on the battered city of Kramatorsk. According to preliminary information, there were no casualties.

Blasts were also heard in the city of Zaporizhzhia, the administrative centre of the Zaporizhzhia region, a local official said, without giving any immediate details on damage or casualties.

The call of a temporary truce had little impact, after widespread reports of infantry fighting as well as artillery fire heard from the frontline. Air raid sirens have also rang out across the country, including the capital Kyiv, during the 36-hour period.

The Russian president announce a ceasefire from midday on Friday after the head of the Russian Orthodox church, which uses the Julian calendar, suggested that Christmas fell on Saturday.

But Ukrainian officials denounced the unilateral pause as a ploy and said it appeared to have been ignored by some of Moscow’s own forces anyway, pressing ahead with the nearly 11-month invasion. Ukrainian officials reported Russian shelling attacks in the Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhzhia regions on Saturday.

Russia’s defense ministry insisted that all its forces along the 1,100km frontline were observing the Kremlin-ordered truce, but returned fire when attacked.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s president praised the US for including tank-killing armored vehicles in its latest multibillion-dollar package of military aid, saying they are "exactly what is needed" for the battle against Russia.

The White House on Friday announced $3.75bn in weapons and other aid for Kyiv, the biggest package to date.

It included 50 Bradley armored vehicles and 500 of the anti-tank missiles they are equipped to fire. Germany also announced it would supply around 40 Marder armored personnel carriers and France promised wheeled AMX-10 RC tank destroyers.

Together, this week’s pledges were powerful signals that Ukraine can count on continued long-term Western aid against Mr Putin’s drive to dismember the country.

In his nightly televised address on Friday, the Ukrainian president hailed the US aid package as "very powerful”.

"For the first time, we will get Bradley armored vehicles – this is exactly what is needed. New guns and rounds, including high-precision ones, new rockets, new drones. It is timely and strong," Volodymyr Zelensky said.

He thanked US president Joe Biden, US lawmakers and "all the Americans who appreciate freedom, and who know that freedom is worth protecting".

Additional reporting by agencies