- Russia Celebrates New Year with Drone and Missile Attacks
- Putin and Zelensky deliver contrasting speeches
- Ukrainian frontline soldiers reflect on the conflict
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.
Ukrainian forces shot down 45 Iranian-made Sahet drones launched by Russia on the first night of the year, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Sunday evening, praising Ukrainians for showing gratitude to the troops and to each other.
“Drones, missiles, everything else won’t help them,” he said of the Russians. “Because we stand united. They are only united by fear.”
A stern New Year’s address from Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled he had not let up on his attack on Ukraine, contradicting Zelenskiy’s earlier message of optimism.
As sirens blared in Kiev, some shouted from their balconies, “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!”
Fragments of the midnight attack caused minimal damage to 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 Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk province, 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 was now fighting for his life with a brain injury in a hospital in the southern city of Dnipro, while his father went forward.
“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.
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,” Putin said in a New Year’s Eve speech before a group of people dressed in military uniforms instead of 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.”
Zelenskiy delivered his own speech on Saturday 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 shouted 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 northeast, Khmelnytskyi in the west, and Zaporizhia and Kherson in the southeast and south.
In Orikhiv, Zaporizhzhia region, shelling killed one person and wounded three others, regional governor Oleksandr Starukh said on Telegram.
Grid operator Ukrenergo said the past day had been “difficult” but that the electricity situation was “under control” and emergency shutdowns had not been implemented.
In Russia, Vyacheslav Kladkov, governor of the southern region of Belgorod, on the border with Ukraine, said overnight shelling in the suburb of Shebekino damaged homes but caused no casualties.
Russian media reported Ukrainian attacks in Moscow-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, with local officials saying at least nine people had been 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, deputy 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; Editing by Peter Graff, Lydia Kelly, Don Peluschuk, Kim Coghill and Frances Kerry
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