Wave of missiles, air raid sirens mark Ukraine’s start to new year

Ukrainians woke up to a grim 2023 on Sunday, reeling from more sirens and fresh missile attacks as the death toll from Russia's massive New Year's Eve assault across the country climbed to at least three.

Ukrainian electric grid operator suspending blackouts for the holiday

As the war between their countries drags on, the presidents of Ukraine and Russia delivered New Year's Day messages, with each preparing their respective countries for a difficult year ahead.

Ukrainians woke up to a grim 2023 on Sunday, reeling from more sirens and fresh missile attacks as the death toll from Russia's massive New Year's Eve assault across the country climbed to at least three.

Shortly after midnight, air raid alerts sounded in the capital, followed by a barrage of missiles that interrupted Ukrainians' small celebrations at home. Ukrainian officials say Russia is now deliberately targeting civilians, seeking to create a climate of fear and destroy morale.

Many waking up on New Year's Day, when Kyiv was largely quiet, savoured the snippets of peace.

"Of course it was hard to celebrate fully because we understand that our soldiers can't be with their family," Evheniya Shulzhenko said while sitting with her husband on a park bench overlooking the city.

But a "really powerful" end-of-year speech by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on New Year's Eve lifted her spirits and made her proud to be Ukrainian, Shulzhenko said. She recently moved to Kyiv after living in Bakhmut and Kharkiv, two cities that have experienced some of the heaviest fighting of the war.

Curfews ranging from 7 p.m. to midnight remained in place across the country, making celebrations for the start of 2023 impossible in public spaces.

Ukraine's top command said in a report on Sunday that Russia had launched 31 missiles with 12 airstrikes across the country in the previous 24 hours.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin in a combative New Year address signalled that the war, now in its 11th month, will continue.

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."

Andrii Nebytov, chief of Kyiv's police, posted a photo on his Telegram messaging app, allegedly of a piece of drone used in the attack on the capital with a hand-written sign on it in Russian saying "Happy New Year."

"These wreckage are not at the front, where fierce battles are taking place; they are here, on a sports grounds, where children play," Nebytov said.

Ukraine's air force command said it destroyed 45 Iranian-made Shahed drones — 32 of them after midnight on Sunday and 13 late on Saturday.

Casualties in Kyiv and Kherson

Multiple blasts rocked the capital and other areas of Ukraine on Saturday and through the night, wounding dozens. An AP photographer at the scene of an explosion in Kyiv on Saturday saw a woman's body as her husband and son stood nearby. Mayor Vitali Klitschko said two schools were damaged, including a kindergarten.

The strikes came 36 hours after widespread missile attacks Russia launched Thursday to damage energy infrastructure facilities. Saturday's unusually quick followup alarmed Ukrainian officials. Russia has attacked Ukrainian power and water supplies almost weekly since October, increasing the suffering of Ukrainians, while its ground forces struggle to hold ground and advance.

Nighttime shelling in parts of the southern city of Kherson killed one person and blew out hundreds of windows in a children's hospital, according to deputy presidential chief of staff Kyrylo Tymoshenko. Ukrainian forces reclaimed the city in November after Russia's forces withdrew across the Dnipro River, which bisects the Kherson region.

When shells hit the children's hospital on Saturday night, surgeons were operating on a 13-year-old boy who was seriously wounded in a nearby village that evening, Kherson Gov. Yaroslav Yanushevych said. The shelling blew out windows in the operating room, and the boy was transferred in serious condition to a hospital about 99 kilometres away in Mykolaiv.

Elsewhere, a 22-year-old woman died of wounds from a rocket attack in the eastern town of Khmelnytskyi, the city's mayor said.

Instead of fireworks, Oleksander Dugyn said he and his friends and family in Kyiv watched the sparks caused by Ukrainian air defence forces countering Russian attacks.

"We already know the sound of rockets, we know the moment they fly, we know the sound of drones. The sound is like the roar of a moped," said Dugin, who was strolling with his family in the park. "We hold on the best we can."

Utility company lifts blackouts

While Russia's bombardments have left many Ukrainians without heating and electricity due to damage or controlled blackouts meant to preserve the remaining power supply, Ukraine's state-owned grid operator said on Sunday there would be no restrictions on electricity use for one day.

"The power industry is doing everything possible to ensure that the New Year's holiday is with light, without restrictions," utility company Ukrenergo said.

It said businesses and industry had cut back to allow the additional electricity for households.

Russia says Donetsk shelled

Separately, Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of the southern Russian region of Belgorod bordering Ukraine, said that 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 that at least nine people were wounded.

Russia's RIA state news agency reported, citing a local doctor, that six people were killed when a hospital in Donetsk was attacked on Saturday.

No response came from Kyiv, which almost never publicly claims responsibility for any attacks inside Russia or on Russian-controlled territories in Ukraine.

There was no independent verification available for the Russian media reports.

With files from Reuters

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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