Kyiv: Ukrainians cheered from their balconies while their air defences blasted Russian missiles and drones from the skies in the first hours of 2023, as Moscow saw off the new year by attacking civilian targets across Ukraine.

Ukraine’s air force command said it had destroyed 45 Iranian-made Shahed drones overnight – 32 of them after midnight on Sunday and 13 late on Saturday. This was on top of 31 missile strikes and 12 airstrikes across the country in the past 24 hours. Russian President Vladimir Putin flagged no ease up to his attack on Ukraine, in a grim and defiant New Year’s speech that contrasted with a hopeful message of gratitude and unity from Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.

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

Fragments from the late-night attack caused minimal damage in the capital’s centre, and preliminarily reports indicated there were no wounded or casualties, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on social media. Attacks earlier on Saturday had hit residential buildings and a hotel in the capital, killing at least one person and injuring more than 20.

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink said on Twitter: “Russia coldly and cowardly attacked Ukraine in the early hours of the new year. But Putin still does not seem to understand that Ukrainians are made of iron.”

At the front line in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk Province, troops toasted the new year. Soldier Pavlo Pryzhehodskiy, 27, played a song on guitar he had written at the front after 12 of his comrades were killed in a single night.

“It is sad that instead of meeting friends, celebrating and giving gifts to one another people were forced to seek shelter, some were killed,” he told Reuters. “It is a huge tragedy. It is a huge tragedy that cannot ever be forgiven. That is why the New Year is sad.”

In a nearby front-line trench, soldier Oleh Zahrodskiy, 49, said he had 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 manned the front.

Ukraine has fought back with Western military support, driving Russian forces from more than half the territory they seized. 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 the captured territory. Since October, Russia has launched mass missile and drone attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, casting cities into darkness and cold as winter sets in. Moscow says the strikes aim to reduce Ukraine’s ability to fight; Kyiv says they have no military purpose and are intended to hurt civilians, a war crime.

“The main thing is the fate of Russia,” a stern-faced Putin said in his New Year’s Eve address, speaking in front of a group of people dressed in military uniform instead of the normal backdrop of the Kremlin walls. “Defence of the fatherland is our sacred duty to our ancestors and descendants. Moral, historical righteousness is on our side.”

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

“We were told: you have no other option but to surrender. We say: we have no other option than to win,” he said.

“This year has struck our hearts. We’ve cried out all the tears. We’ve shouted all the prayers,” Zelensky said. “We fight and will continue to fight. For the sake of the keyword: ‘victory’.”

The latest air strikes damaged infrastructure in Sumy, in the northeast of the country, Khmelnytskyi in the west, and Zaporizhzhia and Kherson in the southeast and south, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said.

“Let the day be quiet,” Valentyn Reznichenko, governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region said early on Sunday, after reporting heavy shelling of several communities in the region overnight that wounded one.

Grid operator Ukrenergo said on Sunday the past day had been “difficult” for its workers but that the electricity situation was “under control” and emergency outages were not being implemented.

“Additional volumes of electricity for household consumers have been provided thanks to the conscious behavior of Ukrainian business and restrictions on the work of industry,” it said in a statement.

Separately, Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of the southern Russian region of Belgorod bordering Ukraine, said overnight shelling of the outskirts of Shebekino town had damaged houses but there were no casualties. Russian media also reported multiple Ukrainian attacks on the Moscow-controlled parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, with local officials saying at least nine people were wounded.

Russia’s RIA state news agency quoted a local doctor as saying that six people were killed in Saturday’s attack on a hospital in Donetsk. Proxy officials in Donetsk also said one person had died in Ukrainian shelling.

By Archana

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