Although for the Catholic world the Holy Week celebrations end this Easter Monday, for the Orthodox world there is still a week to go, as it will be next April 16, the date of the Orthodox Easter festival this 2023. On this date the resurrection of Jesus and marks the end of Lent for the Orthodox. The night before Easter Sunday (Great Saturday) at midnight, the faithful attend the Easter vigil, to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, and wait inside the Temple lighting candles.
More than 200 million Orthodox Christians use this calendar because the Orthodox Church follows the old Julian calendar, instead of the Gregorian.
What is this little “lesson” of religious history? Well, many sources suggest that Russian President Vladimir Putin could use this key religious holiday to propose a ceasefire and delay a long-awaited Ukrainian counter-offensive.
According to the Institute of Study of WAR (ISW) and media such as the American magazine NewsWeek, the Kremlin could try to take advantage of this date to request a pause in hostilities “out of respect for the Orthodox religion despite the fact that Russia has not shown such respect for religion in the areas occupied by its forces,” the ISW said.
Ukraine has a significant Orthodox population, with around 78% of its citizens identifying with this belief. Although the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has split from Russia’s, controversy over alleged links to Moscow has escalated in recent weeks.
Moscow previously called a 36-hour ceasefire on Orthodox Christmas in January 2023, which was rejected by Ukraine. kyiv said then that Russia had continued attacks during the proposed ceasefire period.
Russia’s leadership has used religious holidays to call for a ceasefire, trying to “influence the situation at the front,” ISW said. Moscow probably did not agree to a ceasefire during Orthodox Easter in 2022 because Kremlin forces were in a stronger position than during Orthodox Christmas, the think tank said.
“The Kremlin may call for a ceasefire at Easter because such a pause would disproportionately benefit Russian troops,” he added. It would not only have a military advantage, but would play into Moscow’s information operation to paint Putin “as the true protector of the Christian faith,” the think tank said.
The move could allow the Kremlin to win the disputed eastern city of Bakhmut, which has seen months of heavy fighting, as well as bolster defenses for Ukraine’s spring counteroffensive, ISW wrote.
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said in recent weeks that Russia’s General Staff was “calculating” how to combat a Ukrainian spring counteroffensive.
Earlier this month, leaked documents showing US and NATO assessments of Ukraine’s military needs for an upcoming offensive circulated online, prompting a Pentagon investigation.