October 2, 2023

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Ukrainians cheer the New Year as Russian drones take off from the sky

  • Russia celebrates the New Year with drone and missile attacks
  • Putin and Zelensky make contradictory speeches
  • Ukrainian front-line soldiers reflect on the conflict

KYIV/DONETSK PROVINCE PROVINCE FRONT LINE, UKRAINE, JANUARY 1 (Reuters) – Ukrainians cheered from their balconies as Russian missiles and drones bombed from the sky in the early hours of 2023, as Moscow saw in the new year by attacking civilians. Targets across Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday evening that Ukrainian forces shot down 45 Iranian-made drones launched by Russia on the first night of the year, praising Ukrainians for showing their gratitude to the forces and each other.

“Drones, missiles and everything else won’t help them,” he said of the Russians. “Because we stand united. Only fear unites them.”

A stern New Year’s speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled the relentlessness of his attack on Ukraine, in contrast to Amal Zelensky’s earlier message.

As sirens sounded in Kyiv, some people shouted from their balconies, “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!”

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on social media that shrapnel from the late-night attack caused minor damage in the center of the capital, and initial reports indicate no casualties or casualties. Attacks earlier on Saturday targeted residential buildings and a hotel in the capital, killing at least one person and wounding more than 20.

“Russia coldly and cowardly attacked Ukraine in the early hours of the new year. But Putin doesn’t seem to understand that Ukrainians are made of iron,” US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink said on Twitter.

On the front line in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk province, troops celebrated the New Year. Private Pavlo Prizhodsky, 27, played a song on the guitar that he wrote at the front after 12 of his comrades were killed in one night.

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“It is sad that instead of meeting friends, celebrating and giving gifts to each other, people had to seek shelter and killed each other,” he told Reuters. “It is a great tragedy. It is a great tragedy that can never be forgiven. That is why the New Year is sad.”

In a nearby trench on the front line, Private Oleh Zhrodsky, 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 a brain injury, while his father ran the front.

“It’s very difficult right now,” he said, holding back his tears.

‘a happy new year’

Andrii Nebytov, Kyiv’s chief of police, posted a photo on his Telegram messaging app, showing what was described as a piece of a drone used in an attack on the capital, with a handwritten banner in Russian saying “Happy New Year”. .

“This wreckage is not at the front, where fierce battles are taking place,” Nepetov said. “This is here, on sports grounds, where children play.”

The Russian Ministry of Defense said that it had targeted production, storage and launch sites of Ukrainian drones with long-range missiles on New Year’s Eve.

Russia has razed Ukrainian cities and killed thousands of civilians since Putin ordered his invasion in February, claiming that Ukraine is an artificial state whose pro-Western stance threatens Russia’s security. Moscow has since claimed to have annexed about a fifth of Ukraine.

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Ukraine responded with Western military support, driving Russian forces from more than half of the territory it 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 mass missile and drone attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, throwing cities into darkness and cold as winter sets in. Moscow says the strikes are aimed at reducing Ukraine’s ability to fight back; Kyiv says it has no military purpose and aims to harm civilians, which is a war crime.

“The main thing is the fate of Russia,” Putin said in a New Year’s Eve speech to a group of people dressed in military uniform instead of the usual backdrop of Kremlin walls. “Defending the homeland is our sacred duty towards our ancestors and our descendants. Moral and historical righteousness is on our side.”

Zelensky delivered his speech on Saturday in near darkness, in front of a fluttering Ukrainian flag. He described the past year as a national awakening.

“We are told, ‘You have no other choice but to give up.’ We say, ‘We have no other choice but to win.'”

“This year it hit our hearts. We cried all the tears. We shouted all the prayers,” Zelensky said. “We are fighting and we will continue to fight. For the key word: ‘victory’.”

The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said the latest air strikes destroyed infrastructure in Sumy in the northeast, Khmelnytskyi in the west, as well as Zaporizhia and Kherson in the southeast and south.

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The district governor, Oleksandr Starukh, said on Telegram that the bombing in Orivkhiv, Zaporizhia region, killed one person and injured three.

Oknergo, the network operator, said the past day had been “difficult” but the electricity situation was “under control” and emergency outages were not implemented.

In Russia, Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of the southern Belgorod region bordering Ukraine, said nightly shelling on the outskirts of the town of Shchebykino damaged homes, but there were no casualties.

Russian media has also reported several Ukrainian attacks on Moscow-controlled parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, with local officials saying at least nine people were injured.

The state RIA news agency quoted a local doctor as saying that six people were killed when a hospital in Donetsk was attacked on Saturday. The agency’s authorities in Donetsk also said one person was killed in Ukrainian shelling.

Reuters could not verify the reports. There was no immediate response from Kyiv, which rarely comments on attacks inside Russia or on Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine.

(Reporting by Gleb Garanich, Valentin Ogirienko, Dan Belichuk and Sergei Karazzi in Kyiv and Herbert Villarraga on the frontline in Donetsk Province; Writing by Peter Graf, Lydia Kelly and Dan Belichuk; Editing by Kim Coghill and Frances Kerry

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