Kyiv rocked by explosions amid Russia’s New Year attacks

A new round of explosions rocked Kyiv less than an hour after the start of 2023, after Russia attacked Ukraine with missiles aimed at the capital and other cities ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations.

The first blasts of the new year began around 30 minutes after midnight, hitting two districts, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Telegram, adding that there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Earlier in the evening, President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Ukrainians will fight until victory.

“We are fighting and we will continue to fight. In the name of the main word: “victory”, he said in an address as his country waited out the old year hours after the new wave of strikes.

“I want to say to all of you: Ukrainians, you are amazing! Look at what we have done and what we are doing!” Zelensky said in the emotional speech.

“We are fighting as one team — the whole country, all our regions. I admire all of you. I want to thank every invincible region of Ukraine,” he continued.

As Russian regions in the Far East rang in 2023, Russian leader Vladimir Putin delivered his midnight address – usually with the Kremlin as a backdrop – standing among servicemen and women who have fought in Ukraine.

He told them that “historical justice” was on their side.

Around the same time, explosions rocked the Ukrainian capital, where AFP journalists heard at least 11 loud blasts in the early afternoon.

Klitschko said on social media that at least one person was killed in Saturday’s attacks, while city officials said 22 others were injured.

An explosion ripped through a corner of the four-star Alfavito Hotel in Kyiv, spilling rubble onto the street, an AFP reporter saw.

Nearby sidewalks were covered in glass from blown windows in the area, including from the National Palace of Arts in Kyiv.

Filmmaker Yaroslav Mutenko, 23, lives in a neighboring apartment complex and said he was in the shower and getting ready to go to a New Year’s party when he heard a bang.

He said there had been similar explosions in the area during a previous attack in October, but nothing as powerful as Saturday’s explosion.

As he watched rescuers cordon off the street outside the hotel, he told AFP he still planned to go to the party at a friend’s house.

“Our enemies, the Russians, can destroy our peace, but they cannot destroy our spirit,” he said.

“Why am I going to celebrate with friends? Because this year I understand that it’s important to have people close.”

The attacks come as Putin’s invasion of Ukraine enters its 11th month, with Russian strikes systematically targeting energy infrastructure, leaving millions in the cold and dark in the middle of winter.

Strikes were also reported in the southern city of Nikolaev, where a local official said seven people were injured.

The mayor of Nikolaev, Alexander Senkievich, said earlier that as a result of the strikes, a fire broke out in one of the city’s neighborhoods and several residential buildings were damaged.

As Ukraine continues to rely on military support and aid from Europe and the United States to repel Russian attacks, French President Emmanuel Macron vowed on Saturday to help Ukrainians “without fail … until victory.”

Putin celebrates the New Year

  • In western Ukraine, at least four people were injured in the Khmelnytskyi region, Governor Serhiy Gamalii said, adding that part of the city of Khmelnytskyi was left without electricity.

Ukraine’s chief of general staff, Valery Zaluzhny, said Russia fired 20 cruise missiles on Saturday, 12 of which were shot down.

According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Putin delivered his New Year’s speech from the headquarters of Russia’s Southern Military District, where he visited earlier Saturday and presented awards to servicemen.

The commander of Russia in Ukraine, General Sergey Surovikin, is among the awardees, Russian news agencies reported.

Footage released by Russian state television showed Putin raising a glass of champagne to soldiers dressed in military uniform, some with awards pinned to their chests.

In his traditional New Year’s address broadcast shortly before midnight, Putin told Russians that “moral, historical right is on our side.”

Putin said this year was marked by “really key, fateful events” that became “the border that lays the foundation of our common future, of our true independence.”

“Today we are fighting for this, protecting our people in our own historical territories, in the new constituent entities of the Russian Federation,” he added, referring to four Ukrainian regions that Russia claims to have annexed.

Earlier in the day, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in a message to his troops that Russia’s victory in Ukraine was “inevitable”.

The Defense Ministry also announced the capture of the village of Dorozhnyanka in the southern Zaporozhye region, a rare victory that Russia claimed had suffered a series of defeats on the ground in Ukraine.

The ministry also said 82 Russian servicemen had been released as part of a prisoner swap with Ukraine, while Kyiv said it had returned 140.

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