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ConflictsUkraine

Ukraine updates: Ukrainians mark first Christmas on Dec. 25

Published December 25, 2023last updated December 25, 2023

Ukraine is celebrating Christmas on December 25 for the first time, instead of on January 7, the date it's feted in Russia. Meanwhile, hundreds marched in support of a jailed Russian nationalist in Moscow. DW has more.

https://p.dw.com/p/4aY8g
 Believers attend a Christmas Eve service in Kyiv.
Ukrainian Orthodox Christians attend services as the country for the first time celebrates Christmas on December 25Image: Valentyn Ogirenko/REUTERS
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

Ukrainians are marking Christmas on December 25, moving away from the traditional Orthodox date of January 7, which is feted in Russia, as a snub to Moscow.

Wolfgang Heldt-Meyerding, a German pastor, held a service in Kyiv for the second time this year.

In Moscow, hundreds marched in support of Igor Girkin, a jailed former commander of Russian-backed fighters in Ukraine, who plans to run for the presidency next year.

Here's a look at the latest developments in Russia's war in Ukraine on Monday, December 25.

Skip next section Pope calls for peace in Christmas address
December 25, 2023

Pope calls for peace in Christmas address

Pope Francis has called for "peace for Ukraine" in his traditional Urbi et Orbi message.

"Let us renew our spiritual and human closeness to its embattled people, so that through the support of each of us, they may feel the concrete reality of God's love," the 87-year-old head of 1.3 billion Catholics said in his annual Christmas address.

Ukraine is celebrating Christmas on December 25 for the first time, snubbing the traditional Orthodox date of January 7 feted in Russia.

https://p.dw.com/p/4aZfg
Skip next section Russia says it has seized eastern town of Marinka
December 25, 2023

Russia says it has seized eastern town of Marinka

Russia said Monday it was now in complete control of the town of Marinka in eastern Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed the capture a "success" and said it would mean less shelling on Donetsk.

"Our assault units have today completely liberated the settlement of Marinka," Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Putin in a meeting shown on state television.

But Ukraine soon denied Russia was now controlling the town.

Southwest of the Russian-held regional center of Donetsk, Maryinka is seen as a ghost town now, after once being home to 10,000 people.

https://p.dw.com/p/4aZQ4
Skip next section Ukraine receives $1.34 billion in financing
December 25, 2023

Ukraine receives $1.34 billion in financing

Ukraine's Finance Ministry on Monday said it received $1.34 billion (€1.22 billion) of funding under the World Bank's program for administrative capacity endurance.

The ministry gave a breakdown of the package, saying $1.086 billion was a loan from the World Bank, $190 million was a grant from Norway, $50 million was a grant from the US and then $20 million came from Switzerland.

The ministry said the funds would be used to compensate in part, non-security and defence-related expenditures of the Ukrainian state budget, including old-age social payments and payments to employees of the state emergency service.

"International financial assistance is a significant contribution to maintaining Ukraine's financial and economic stability and allows us to provide priority social expenditures during the war," Ukraine's finance minister Serhiy Marchenko said.

https://p.dw.com/p/4aYja
Skip next section Ukraine says it shot down dozens of Russian drones and two missiles
December 25, 2023

Ukraine says it shot down dozens of Russian drones and two missiles

Ukraine's military said its air defense systems shot down 28 out of 31 drones launched by Russia in overnight attacks targeting the south of the country.

"As a result of air combat, the Ukrainian Air Force and defense forces destroyed 28 Shahed attack drones in Odesa, Kherson, Mykolaiv, Donetsk, Kirovohrad and Khmelnytskyi regions," Ukraine's air force said on the Telegram messaging app.

"During the air attack, the enemy also used the Kh-59 guided air missile in the direction of Zaporizhzhia and the Kh-31P anti-radar missile from the Black Sea. Both are destroyed," the air force said.

The military said the drones were launched from Russian-occupied Crimea and also warned of missile danger in the Kharkiv region, cautioning residents not to ignore alarms.

DW could not independently verify the information provided by Ukraine's military.

https://p.dw.com/p/4aYKr
Skip next section Ukraine celebrates Christmas on December 25
December 25, 2023

Ukraine celebrates Christmas on December 25

Ukrainians are celebrating Christmas on December 25 for the first time, abandoning the traditional Orthodox date of January 7, which is feted in Russia.

The move is a snub to Moscow, which launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago.

Ukraine celebrates first Christmas on 25 December

"All Ukrainians are together. We all celebrate Christmas together. On the same date, as one big family, as one nation, as one united country," said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a Christmas message released Sunday evening.

Zelenskyy signed a decree in July moving the date of celebration to December 25, allowing Ukrainians to "abandon the Russian heritage of imposing Christmas celebrations on January 7." 

This is part of government moves, including changing street names and removing monuments, in an attempt to remove traces of the Russian and Soviet empires.

In the port of Odesa, churchgoers prayed and lit candles as priests in gold vestments held Christmas Eve service in the Cathedral of the Nativity, decorated with fir trees and a nativity scene.

"We really want to celebrate in a new way. This is a holiday with the whole of Ukraine, with our independent Ukraine. This is very important for us," parishioner Olena told AFP news agency.
 

Despair, defiance, hope: Ukraine at Christmas

https://p.dw.com/p/4aY8j
Skip next section German pastor holds second Kyiv Christmas service
December 25, 2023

German pastor holds second Kyiv Christmas service

German pastor Wolfgang Heldt-Meyerding from the city of Flensburg held a Christmas service for the second time in Kyiv. 

"We are full of longing for peace, it is the second Christmas in which our hearts become tight with the thoughts of hardship and death, pain and grief caused by this war," said Heldt-Meyerding while giving a sermon on Christmas Eve in the German church of St Catherine in the Ukrainian capital.

He recalled the victims of war as well as the solidarity of the Ukrainians and the mutual aid of the people. The service was held in two languages, German and Ukrainian.

The congregation sang carols such as "Silent Night" and "Oh, How Joyful." The German-speaking congregation has a history in Kyiv of more than 250 years.

https://p.dw.com/p/4aY99
Skip next section Hundreds march in support of jailed Russian commander Girkin
December 25, 2023

Hundreds march in support of jailed Russian commander Girkin

More than 300 marched in Moscow, in support of Igor Girkin, a jailed former commander of Russian-backed fighters in Ukraine who wants to run for president.

Girkin, also known by his alias Igor Strelkov, was a key leader of separatist fighters in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

He has strongly criticized Russia's military strategy in Ukraine for being "too kind."

After being charged with extremism for a series of posts criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin, he was arrested. In August, while he was still in prison, he announced plans to run for the March elections where Putin is expected to win.

The rally in Moscow included many women, older people and military veterans. They wore T-shirts and badges bearing his face and the slogan "Freedom for Strelkov!"

They acknowledged Girkin had no chance of having his candidacy approved. 

tg/sri (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)

https://p.dw.com/p/4aY97