KYIV/DONETSK PROVINCE FRONT LINE, Ukraine, Jan 1 (Reuters) – Ukrainians cheered from their balconies as their air defenses blasted Russian missiles and drones out of the sky in the first hours of 2023, as Moscow saw in the new year by attacking civilians. Destinations across Ukraine.
Ukraine’s air force command said it destroyed 45 Iranian-made Shahed drones overnight — 32 of them after midnight Sunday and 13 late Saturday. 31 missile strikes and 12 airstrikes were carried out across the country in the last 24 hours.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled he was not letting up on his attack on Ukraine in a harsh and defiant New Year’s address that contrasted with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky’s hopeful message of gratitude and unity.
As sirens blared in Kiev, some shouted from their balconies, “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!”
Fragments of the midnight attack caused limited damage in the center of the capital, and initial reports indicated no injuries or casualties, Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko said on social media. Earlier attacks on Saturday hit residential buildings and a hotel in the capital, killing at least one person and injuring more than 20 others.
Bridget Brink, the US ambassador to Ukraine, said on Twitter: “Russia coldly and cowardly attacked Ukraine at the beginning of the new year. But Putin still doesn’t understand that Ukrainians are made of iron.”
On the front lines in the eastern Donetsk province of Urkin, troops toasted the New Year. After 12 comrades were killed in one night, 27-year-old soldier Pavlo Przyhodski played a song on his guitar that he had written at the front.
“Instead of meeting friends and giving each other gifts, people are forced to seek shelter and some have been killed,” he told Reuters. “It’s a great tragedy. An unforgivable great tragedy. That’s why New Year’s is sad.”
In a nearby front-line trench, 49-year-old soldier Oleh Zahrodskiy said he signed up as a volunteer after his son was called up to fight as a reservist. His son is now in a hospital in the southern city of Dnipro, fighting for his life with a brain injury, while his father went on ahead.
“It’s so hard right now,” she said, choking back tears.
‘Happy New Year’
Kyiv’s police chief, Andrii Nebytov, posted a photo on his Telegram messaging app of what he described as the drone used in the attack on the capital, with a handwritten signature reading “Happy New Year” in Russian. .
“These ruins are not at the front, where fierce battles are taking place, this is here, in a playground, where children are playing,” Nebytov said.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said it had targeted the production, storage and launch sites of Ukrainian drones with long-range missiles on New Year’s Day.
Russia has leveled Ukrainian cities and killed thousands of civilians since Putin ordered his invasion in February, claiming that Ukraine is an artificial state and its pro-Western outlook threatens Russia’s security. Moscow claims it has annexed a fifth of Ukraine.
Ukraine fought back with Western military support, driving Russian forces from half of the territory they had captured. In recent weeks, the front lines have been largely static, with thousands of soldiers dying in intense trench warfare as Moscow defends its grip on captured territory.
Since October, Russia has launched massive missile and drone attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, plunging cities into darkness and cold as winter sets in. Moscow says the strikes are aimed at reducing Ukraine’s ability to fight; Kyiv says they had no military purpose and intended to injure civilians, a war crime.
“The most important thing is the fate of Russia,” a stern-faced Putin said in his New Year’s Eve speech, speaking before a crowd of people in military uniform instead of against the usual backdrop of the Kremlin walls. “Defending the fatherland is our sacred duty to our forefathers and posterity. Moral and historical justice is on our side.”
Zelensky delivered his own speech in the dark, in front of a fluttering Ukrainian flag. He described the past year as a national awakening.
“We are told: you have no choice but to surrender. We say: we have no choice but to win,” he said.
“This year has hit our hearts. We’ve cried all the tears. We’ve cried all the prayers,” Zelensky said. “We are fighting and will continue to fight. For the key word ‘victory’.”
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said recent airstrikes damaged infrastructure in Sumy in the country’s northeast, Khmelnytskyi in the west, and Zaporizhia and Kherson in the southeast and south.
“May the day be peaceful,” Valentyn Reznichenko, the governor of Dnipropetrovsk region, said early Sunday, after heavy shelling hit several communities in the region overnight, injuring one person.
Grid operator Ukrenergo said Sunday was “difficult” for its workers, but the power situation was “under control” and no emergency shutdowns had been implemented.
Separately, Vyacheslav Klatkov, governor of the southern Russian region of Belgorod, which borders Ukraine, said overnight shelling on the outskirts of the city of Shebekino damaged homes but caused no casualties.
Russian media have reported several Ukrainian attacks on the Moscow-controlled regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, with local officials saying at least nine people were wounded.
Six people were killed in an attack on a hospital in Donetsk on Saturday, Russia’s RIA state news agency reported, citing a local doctor. One person was killed in Ukrainian shelling, proxy officials in Donetsk said.
Reuters reports could not be verified. There was no immediate response from Kyiv, which rarely comments on attacks inside Russia or on Russian-controlled areas in Ukraine.
Reporting by Gleb Garanich, Valentyn Ogirenko, Dan Peleshchuk and Sergiy Karazy in Kyiv and Herbert Villaraca on the front lines in Donetsk Oblast; Written by Peter Graf, Lydia Kelly and Don Beleschuk Editing by Kim Coghill and Frances Kerry
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