Ukrainians cheer new year as Russian drone falls from sky

  • Russia celebrates New Year with drone and missile strikes
  • Putin and Zelensky give starkly different speeches
  • Ukrainian frontline soldiers reflect on conflict

Kyiv/Donetsk Province Front, Ukraine, Jan 1 (Reuters) – Ukrainians cheered from their balconies while their air defenses knocked out Russian missiles and drones in the first hours of 2023 Shoot down the skies, as Moscow sees in the new year attacking civilian targets across Ukraine.

Ukrainian troops shot down 45 Iranian-made Sahad drones launched by Russia on the first night of the year, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said late Sunday, praising Ukrainians for their dedication to the military and Thank each other.

“Drones, missiles, everything else doesn’t help,” he said of the Russians. “Because we’re united. They’re only united by fear.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered a scathing New Year’s speech showing no let up in his attacks on Ukraine, in contrast to Zelenskiy’s earlier message of hope.

As sirens sounded in Kyiv, some chanted from balconies: “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to heroes!”

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

Bridget Brinker, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, tweeted: “Russia attacked Ukraine in the early hours of New Years in callous cowardice. But Putin still doesn’t seem to understand that Ukrainians are iron.”

Soldiers toast to celebrate the New Year on the front lines in Donetsk province, eastern Ukraine. Pavlo Pryzhehodskiy, a 27-year-old soldier, played his guitar on a song he had composed at the front after 12 of his comrades were killed in one night.

“It’s sad that instead of meeting friends, celebrating and giving gifts to each other, people were forced to seek asylum and some were killed,” he told Reuters. “It’s a huge tragedy. It’s a forever tragedy. A great tragedy that cannot be forgiven. That’s why the New Year is sad.”

In a nearby frontline 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 is now in a hospital in the southern city of Dnipro with a brain injury and is fighting for his life while his father works on the front lines.

“It’s tough right now,” he said, fighting back tears.

‘Happy New Year’

Kyiv police chief Andrii Nebytov posted a photo on his Telegram messaging app of a drone described as being used in an attack on the capital with a handwritten Russian sign with the words “Happy New Year”.

“The wreckage is not at the front line, where heavy fighting is taking place, but here, on a sports field, where children are playing,” Nebytov said.

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

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

Ukraine has fought back with Western military support, pushing Russian forces out of more than half of the territory they hold. The frontline has been largely static in recent weeks, with thousands of soldiers killed 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 said the strikes were aimed at degrading Ukraine’s ability to fight; Kyiv said they had no military purpose and were aimed at harming civilians, a war crime.

“The main thing is the fate of Russia,” Putin said in a New Year’s Eve speech in front of a crowd in military uniform rather than the normal backdrop of Kremlin walls. “Defending the Fatherland is our sacred duty to our ancestors and our descendants. Moral and historical justice is on our side.”

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

“We were told: You have no choice but to surrender. We said: We have no choice but to win,” he said.

“This year has touched us. We shed all the tears. We prayed loudly,” Zelensky said. “We fought and will continue to fight. For the key word: ‘victory.'”

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

In Orikhiv, Zaporizhzhia region, shelling killed one person and wounded three, regional governor Oleksandr Starukh said on Telegram.

Grid operator Ukrenergo said it had been a “difficult day” but the power situation was “under control” and emergency blackouts had not been implemented.

In Russia, the governor of the southern Belgorod region on the border with Ukraine, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said overnight shelling on the outskirts of the town of Shebekino damaged houses but caused no casualties.

Russian media also reported repeated Ukrainian attacks on the Moscow-controlled regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, where officials said at least nine people were wounded.

A hospital in Donetsk was attacked on Saturday, killing six people, Russia’s RIA state news agency quoted a local doctor as saying. Proxy authorities in Donetsk also said one person was killed in the Ukrainian shelling.

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

By Gleb Garanich, Valentyn Ogirenko, Dan Peleshchuk and Sergiy Karazy in Kyiv and Herbert Villarraga on the front in Donetsk Province; Writing by Peter Graff, Lidia Kelly, Dan Peleschuk, Editing by Kim Coghill and Frances Kerry

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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