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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
KIEV, UKRAINE (BosNewsLife)– Some pro-Russian rebels have used the Orthodox Christmas to reach-out to their enemy in eastern Ukraine. With Jesus saying in the Bible: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” they gave Christmas presents to Ukrainian troops.
It happened Tuesday while they provided safe passage to some 50 Ukrainian soldiers.
The Ukrainian troops traveled in a convoy of four trucks to the Donetsk Airport, scene of some of the fiercest fighting in eastern Ukraine.
As part of a troop rotation, the same vehicles later returned, carrying 49 Ukrainian soldiers and the human remains of a comrade killed in battle a few days earlier, officials said.
The Orthodox Christmas gestures provided a short peaceful pause in an otherwise bloody conflict. It was unclear what impact these Christmas gestures would have on peace talks after France, Germany, and Kiev cast doubts on whether a four-way summit would be held next week in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana.
PRIME MINISTER TALKS
However, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk was due to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Thursday, January 8. to discuss the next steps. Fighting between government forces and pro-Russian separatists has killed nearly 5,000 people.
Among the latest casualties, though not directly related to fighting, were Ukrainian servicemen killed in a massive traffic accident. Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said their bus collided with two heavy trucks on a snowy road, killing 12 of them and injuring more than 21 others.
Their deaths overshadowed the Orthodox Christmas, which despite Ukrainian-Russian tensions is being observed across the country on January 7. When Ukraine was part of the former Soviet Union, Christmas Day was banned as an official holiday by the atheistic Communist leadership.
Yet, celebrating the birth of Jesus was done in secret by many Christians. And after Ukraine gained its independence in 1991, Christmas Day was made a public holiday.