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I’m not too concerned about the “war on Christmas” angle being picked up by anyone in the US other than the folks on the right who already look for pro-Putin anti-Ukraine talking points. The US is mighty parochial. Russia was seen deliberately launching especially brutal waves of missile and drone attacks on “real” Christmas and New Year’s in Ukraine - that’s already an established tale that generated widespread sympathy for the Ukrainians. Putin declaring a limited ceasefire 2 weeks after Ukraine celebrated Christmas isn’t going to impress many Americans favorably.

The Russian Christmas celebration calendar simply isn’t a “real” Christmas for most Americans, just a Russian peculiarity they don’t take seriously. For the uninformed, claiming it’s a “Christmas” ceasefire looks more like another attempt by Moscow to impose itself on the (correctly celebrating) Ukrainians. The splits between the Moscow patriarchate and Ukraine’s Orthodox church(es) will touch sensitive points in the Russian domestic audience but will fly right over the heads of all but a few Americans.

On the religious issue, Americans will be much more susceptible to negative framing of Zelensky’s attempts to limit subversive activities by Ukrainian religious personnel who acknowledge the Moscow patriarchate’s authority. Given Americans’ attachment to “religious liberty” it’s easy to activate a story of the Moscow-linked Ukrainian churches, monasteries and people being “persecuted” for religious “beliefs”.

Zelensky’s folks need to appreciate how dangerous it would be for the “persecution” story to take root with Americans. It’s likely to make an unlovely appearance in GOP-led House hearings on aid to Ukraine. If they don’t head it off soon, it will become another “Ukrainians are neo-nazis” zombie story that will keep raising its ugly head no matter how often put down.

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