Christmas Day was like no other this year in Ukraine.
In a major blow to Moscow’s ambitions to control the Black Sea, Kyiv that night destroyed the Novocherkassk, a landing ship moored in Crimea that Russia used to transport tanks, troops and drones.
Ukraine took out more than 1,000 Russian soldiers, 37 armored personnel vehicles and 22 tanks on Dec. 25 alone — along with two fighter jets and dozens of drones Christmas Eve.
“We don’t even need Christmas,” Yuriy Sak, an adviser to the strategic-industries minister, chuckled by phone Wednesday from Kyiv. “We have plenty to celebrate.”
But in fact Ukraine did get Christmas — the first time since the public holiday was changed to Dec. 25 from the Jan. 7 Orthodox date as part of the country’s move toward the West and away from its murderously aggressive neighbor.
Ukraine’s military victories seemed a good omen of the year to come as Russia’s full-scale invasion approaches the two-year mark.
So why, just days later, did the Biden White House practically throw its ally under the bus?
Battle-hardened but buoyant Ukrainians gathered Christmas Eve and Day across the country to celebrate — and pray for peace.
“It was amazing to see how people actually got together on the 25th. The governor, the mayor, the victorious and glorious soldiers of the Ukrainian army were all gathered in the Ukrainian Catholic Church, which is in the city center of Kharkiv. It’s a church that needs reconstruction, but it has amazing atmosphere,” Maria Mezentseva, a member of parliament from the city just 25 miles from Russia, told me.
I saw the damage to the city myself in July — the Russians came close to occupying, and it’s a regular victim of bombing attacks.
“We got together on the 24th and on the 25th to pray for all our soldiers, for our volunteers, medical workers, teachers and also very importantly for our international partners and everyone who visited us who covered the news, including you, of course,” Mezentseva added.
She described a moving scene: Children from Plast, the Ukrainian scouts organization, with adults “brought the Fire of Peace, as it’s called, from Bethlehem, from Israel, from spot where Jesus was born,” as they do all over the country each year.
“Ukraine has probably some of the strongest and most widely celebrated Christmas traditions in the world,” noted Joe Lindsley, editor of UkrainianFreedomNews.com, from Lviv. “By making war on Ukraine, Russia is making an actual war on Christmas.
Tell that to your friends complaining they didn’t hear “Merry Christmas” enough in America this month.
Lindsley, an American who’s reported from Ukraine on Chicago WGN radio every weekday since February 2022, has a point.
As Mezentseva observed, the popular Christmastime “Carol of the Bells” started life as the Ukrainian New Year’s song “Shchedryk” during World War I: “It became a powerful diplomatic tool for the Versailles peace meeting.”
The parliamentarian can’t help pointing out another fact.
“People are united in one spirit, and that’s so important,” she said, noting it felt good for her country to join the West’s official Christmas celebrations. “That attachment is extremely important because Christianity was spread from Ukraine to the rest of Europe as well,” she explained. “It’s a known fact we baptized representatives of Russia, not the reverse.”
“Everything matters, church matters, religion matters, culture matters,” she said. “Ukrainian culture matters, that Ukrainians exist as a nation. We are more powerful than Soviet propaganda and currently Russian propaganda.”
As Sak, the ministerial adviser, said, “Breaking out of Russia’s cultural influence will not happen overnight.”
Breaking out of Russia’s partial occupation won’t either.
But Ukraine has shot down eight Russian fighter jets in the last three weeks, in addition to its other recent wins.
Yet Team Biden seemed to shoot down hopes its support won’t waver in a shocking Politico story Wednesday.
Biden officials are “quietly shifting their focus from supporting Ukraine’s goal of total victory over Russia to improving its position in an eventual negotiation to end the war,” the publication reported Wednesday.
That “would likely mean giving up parts of Ukraine to Russia.”
A “White House spokesman who was given anonymity” told Politico, “That’s been our theory of the case throughout — the only way this war ends ultimately is through negotiation” — something the Biden team has not admitted publicly.
“This is not the first and not the last time” such suggestions have been made, Sak said. “But negotiate with who? These are war criminals. These are thugs. They are waging a genocidal war against us.”
He conceded the vaunted counteroffensive hasn’t seen the success Kyiv hoped.
But given the fact Ukraine still doesn’t have the airpower it’s been seeking since the invasion’s start — it’s unbelievable to this writer it’s still awaiting F-16s and real long-range missiles — how was it supposed to quickly beat back a country with lots of planes and a seemingly never-ending supply of men Russian President Vladimir Putin is happy to send to the slaughter?
The Christmas ship destruction is an important reminder: Kyiv has kept Russia from control of the Black Sea.
“That’s a huge accomplishment of the Ukrainian armed forces,” Saks observed.
Kyiv City Councilman Yuriy Serhiyovych Fedorenko — who also in charge of a drone program in the country’s vaunted 92nd Brigade — also points to Ukraine’s triumphs.
“In 2023, we have managed to hold all positions, prevent further occupation of our land, managed to de-occupy a certain number of territories with the available forces and means,” he said. But “to win this war, you need technologies.”
He also celebrated Ukraine’s friends in the West this Christmas, with a special thank you “to the people of the USA!”
“We in Ukraine jointly defend our values, which are shared by the American people,” he said. “We look forward to further support. After all, the production of weapons that go to Ukraine is located in the USA — it means jobs, taxes, as well as the modernization of the military industry at home in relatively peaceful times for the United States itself.”
Let’s hope President Biden just forgot Ukraine now celebrates Christmas in December and has an overflowing stocking planned for our ally come January.
Kelly Jane Torrance is The Post’s op-ed editor.