People in Ukraine got off to a grim start to 2023 as renewed Russian missile and drone strikes followed blistering onslaught on New Year’s Eve according to authorities across the country.
Air raid sirens sounded in the capital Kyiv shortly after midnight on Sunday, followed by a barrage of rockets that interrupted the small celebrations held by residents at home due to the wartime curfew. As the sirens blared, some people shouted from their balconies, ‘Glory to Ukraine! Glory to heroes!”
Another strike on Sunday afternoon in the southern region of Zaporizhzhia left one person dead, according to the head of the regional military administration, Alexander Starukh.
In a video address on Sunday evening, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised his citizens’ “sense of unity, authenticity and life itself”. Russia, he said, “will not take away a single year from Ukraine. They will not take away our independence. We will not give them anything.”
“Drones, missiles, anything else won’t help them,” he said of the Russians. “Because we are united. They are united only by fear.”
Ukrainian forces shot down in the air and on the ground 45 Iranian-made explosive drones fired by Russia on Saturday evening and before dawn on Sunday, Zelenskyy said. Iran denies that it supplied Russia with the weapons.
“Of course it was difficult to fully celebrate, because we understand that our soldiers cannot be with their families,” Evheniya Shulzhenko said as she sat with her husband on a park bench overlooking Kiev.
But a “really powerful” New Year’s Eve speech from Zelenskyy did her good and made her proud to be Ukrainian, Shulzhenko said. She recently moved to Kiev after living in Bakhmut and Kharkiv, two cities that have seen the heaviest fighting since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
Multiple blasts rocked the capital and other parts of Ukraine Saturday and throughout the night, injuring dozens of people. A photographer from the Associated Press news agency at the scene of an explosion in Kiev saw the body of a woman while her husband and son stood nearby.
Ukraine’s largest university, Kyiv’s Taras Shevchenko National University, reported significant damage to its buildings and campus. Mayor Vitali Klitschko said two schools were damaged, including a kindergarten.
Instead of New Year’s fireworks, Oleksander Dugyn said he and his friends and family in Kiev watched the sparks set off by Ukrainian air defense forces fighting off Russian attacks.
“We already know the sound of missiles, we know the moment when they fly, we know the sound of drones. The sound is like the roar of a moped,” said Dugin, who was walking in the park with his family. “We hold on to what we can.”
Russia said on Sunday its New Year’s attacks targeted “the facilities of Ukraine’s military-industrial complex” involved in drone production.
“Storage facilities and launch sites” for the drones have also been destroyed, Russia’s defense ministry said. “The plans of the Kiev regime to carry out terrorist attacks against Russia in the near future have been thwarted.”
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskyy, said Russia’s New Year’s attacks targeted central parts of major cities and indicated a change in Moscow’s tactics.
“Russia has run out of military targets and is trying to kill as many civilians as possible and destroy more civilian facilities,” he tweeted. “A war to kill.”
The attacks came 36 hours after Russia launched widespread missile strikes to damage energy infrastructure facilities on Thursday. Saturday’s unusually quick follow-up alarmed Ukrainian officials. Russia has launched airstrikes on Ukraine’s power and water supplies on an almost weekly basis since October, while ground forces struggle to hold their ground and advance.
Nighttime shelling in parts of the southern city of Kherson killed one person and blew out hundreds of windows at a children’s hospital, deputy presidential chief of staff Kyrylo Tymoshenko said. Ukrainian troops retook the city in November after Russian troops retreated across the Dnieper River, which bisects the Kherson region.
When shells hit the children’s hospital Saturday night, surgeons operated on a 13-year-old boy who was seriously injured that night in a nearby village, Kherson governor Yaroslav Yanushevych said. The boy was taken in serious condition to a hospital about 99 km away in Mykolaiv.
Elsewhere, a 22-year-old woman died of injuries from a Saturday rocket attack in the eastern city of Khmelnytskyi, the city’s mayor said.
While Russia’s bombings have left many Ukrainians without heating and electricity due to damage or controlled blackouts designed to preserve remaining power, Ukraine’s state grid operator said on Sunday there will be no restrictions on electricity consumption for one day.
“The energy industry is doing everything it can to ensure that the New Year holidays are with light, without restrictions,” said utility company Ukrenergo. It said businesses and industry had cut back to allow for the extra electricity for households.
In Russia, Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of the southern region of Belgorod, bordering Ukraine, said nightly shelling of the suburbs of the city of Shebekino had damaged houses but caused no casualties.
Russian media also reported multiple Ukrainian attacks on the Moscow-controlled parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, with local officials saying at least nine people were injured.
Russia’s state news agency RIA quoted a local doctor as saying six people were killed in an attack on a hospital in Donetsk on Saturday. Plenipotentiary authorities in Donetsk also said one person had been killed by Ukrainian shelling.
It was not possible to independently verify the reports.