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 early hours of 2023, as Moscow watched in the new year attacking civilians. Targets across Ukraine.
Ukraine’s air force command said it destroyed 45 Iranian-made Shaheed drones overnight — 32 of them after midnight on Sunday and 13 late on Saturday. This is on top of 31 missile strikes and 12 airstrikes across the country in the last 24 hours.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled no let-up in his attack on Ukraine, in a defiant New Year’s address that contrasted with a hopeful message of gratitude and unity from Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.
As sirens blared in Kiev, some shouted from their balconies, “Glory to Ukraine, glory to the heroes!”
Shrapnel from the late-night attack caused minor damage in the center of the capital, and initial reports indicated no injuries or casualties, Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko said on social media. At least one person was killed and more than 20 others were injured in the early Saturday attack, which targeted residential buildings and a hotel in the capital.
Bridget Brink, the US ambassador to Ukraine, said on Twitter: “Russia attacked Ukraine coldly and cowardly in the first hours of the new year. But Putin still doesn’t understand that Ukrainians are made of iron.”
Troops ring in the New Year on the front lines in Urkine’s eastern Donetsk province. Soldier Pavlo Przyhodski, 27, played a song on his guitar written on the front after 12 of his comrades were killed in a single night.
“It is sad that instead of seeing friends, celebrating and giving each other gifts, people were forced to seek shelter and some were killed,” he told Reuters. “This is a great tragedy. A great tragedy that will never be forgiven. That’s why the new year is so sad.”
In a nearby front-line trench, soldier Oleh Zahrodsky, 49, said he signed up as a volunteer after his son was called up to fight as a reservist. His son was now in a hospital in the southern city of Dnipro, fighting for his life with brain damage, while his father worked on the front lines.
“It’s so hard right now,” he said, choking back tears.
‘happy New Year’
Kyiv’s police chief Andriy Nebitov posted a photo on his Telegram messaging app showing part of the drone used in the attack in the capital, with a sign reading “Happy New Year” in Russian. .
“These ruins are not at the front, where fierce battles are fought, this is here, on a sports field, where children are playing,” Nebitov said.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said on New Year’s Eve that it targeted the production, storage and launch sites of Ukrainian drones with long-range missiles.
Russia has leveled Ukrainian cities and killed thousands of civilians since Putin ordered his invasion in February, claiming Ukraine is an artificial state and a pro-Western view that threatens Russia’s security. Moscow later claimed to have annexed a fifth of Ukraine.
Ukraine retaliated with Western military support, driving Russian forces out of more than half of the territory they had seized. In recent weeks, the front lines have been largely static, with thousands of troops dying in intense trench warfare as Moscow defends its grip on territory captured by Moscow.
Since October, Russia has launched massive missile and drone strikes against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, plunging cities into darkness and cold as winter sets in. Moscow says the attack is aimed at reducing Ukraine’s combat capabilities; Kyiv says they have no military purpose and are intended to harm civilians, a war crime.
“The main thing is the fate of Russia,” a stern-faced Putin said in his New Year’s address, speaking to a crowd of people in military uniforms instead of the usual backdrop of the Kremlin walls. “Protection of the fatherland is our sacred duty to our forefathers and posterity. Moral and historical justice is on our side.”
In front of a flying Ukrainian flag, Zelensky gave his own address in the dark. He described the past year as a national awakening.
“We were told: You have no choice but to surrender. We say: We have no choice but to win,” he said.
“This year has touched our hearts. We’ve cried all the tears. We’ve said all the prayers,” Zelensky said. “We will fight and keep fighting. For the key word: ‘Victory’.”
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said the latest airstrikes damaged infrastructure in Sumi in the northeast of the country, Khmelnytskyi in the west, Zaporizhia and Kherson in the southeast and south.
“May the day be peaceful,” said Valentin Reznichenko, the governor of Dnipropetrovsk region, early Sunday, after reports of heavy shelling of several communities overnight in the region, injuring one person.
Grid operator Ukrainergo said on Sunday that the previous day had been “difficult” for its workers but that the power situation was “under control” and no emergency shutdowns had been implemented.
Separately, Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of the southern Russian region of Belgorod, which borders Ukraine, said overnight shelling on the outskirts of the city of Shebekino damaged houses but caused no casualties.
Russian media reported multiple Ukrainian attacks in Moscow-controlled parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, 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, according to proxy officials in Donetsk.
Reuters was unable to verify the reports. There was no immediate response from Kyiv, which rarely comments on attacks inside Russia or in Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine.
Gleb Garanich, Valentin Ogirenko, Dan Peleshchuk and Sergey Karasi report in Kyiv and Herbert Villaraga on the front lines in Donetsk province; By Peter Graff, Lydia Kelly and Dan Peleschuk Editing by Kim Coggle and Frances Carey
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