A destroyed Russian tank stands across the road of a...

A destroyed Russian tank stands across the road of a church in the town of Sviatohirsk, Ukraine on Friday. Credit: AP/Evgeniy Maloletka

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine's president is praising the United States for including tank-killing armored vehicles in its latest multibillion-dollar package of military aid, saying they are “exactly what is needed” for Ukrainian troops locked in combat against Russian forces.

Officials, meanwhile, said it was unclear whether Moscow was abiding by a unilateral 36-hour cease-fire for Orthodox Christmas that Ukraine has denounced as a ploy.

The latest multi-billion dollar package of U.S. military assistance announced Friday by the White House was the biggest to date for Kyiv. For the first time, it included Bradley armored vehicles — known as tank-killers because of the anti-tank missiles they fire.

In his nightly televised address on Friday, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called it “a very powerful package.”

“For the first time, we will get Bradley armoured vehicles — this is exactly what is needed. New guns and rounds, including high-precision ones, new rockets, new drones. It is timely and strong,” he said.

He thanked U.S. President Joe Biden, U.S. lawmakers and “all the Americans who appreciate freedom, and who know that freedom is worth protecting.”

Ukrainian authorities on Saturday said that a Moscow-declared temporary truce for Orthodox Christmas appeared to have been ignored by some of its forces pressing ahead with the nearly 11-month invasion.

In the fiercely contested Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine, regional Gov. Serhiy Haidai reported continued Russian shelling and assaults. Posting on Telegram, Haidai said that in the first three hours of the cease-fire's supposed start Friday for Orthodox Christmas Eve, Russian forces shelled Ukrainian positions 14 times and stormed one settlement three times. The claim couldn't be independently verified.

The Ministry of Defense in Britain, a leading supplier of military aid to Ukraine, said Saturday in its daily readout on the invasion that “fighting has continued at a routine level into the Orthodox Christmas period.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry alleged Friday that Ukrainian forces continued to shell its positions, and said its forces returned fire, although it wasn’t clear whether those reported exchanges occurred before or after the start of Moscow's cease-fire.

Ukrainian officials dismissed Moscow's unilateral order for a 36-hour pause as a ploy to buy its struggling invasion forces time to regroup. It was due to end Saturday night — at midnight Moscow time, which is 11 p.m. in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

Ukrainian and Western officials portrayed the announcement as an attempt by Putin to grab the moral high ground, while possibly seeking to snatch the battlefield initiative and rob the Ukrainians of momentum amid their counteroffensive of recent months.

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