KYIV, Ukraine — As small crowds gathered Saturday at sites hit by missile strikes, people spoke of close calls, an interrupted New Year’s Eve and seething anger at Russia for attacking a holiday.
The year ended much the same way it had for residents of the capital and other cities, with families rushing to safer areas in their homes amid air raid sirens and explosions.
The outrage over airstrikes on cities far from the front lines is all the more palpable because Ukraine is winning on the battlefield and the barrages serve no direct military purpose. President Volodymyr Zelensky called such strikes “revenge of the losers.”
Viktoria Dubrovina, a retired metro system employee, heard what she described as rumblings in the sky and then explosions near an auditorium called the Palace of Ukraine, across the street from her apartment building in central Kyiv.
“I’m just speechless,” she said. “This is outrageous. We know how sneaky they are and everyone knew that in theory they were ready to attack on the holiday. But we were hoping something would change. But they did.
The explosion shattered windows, tore a five-story hole in a hotel wall and left concrete slabs and broken glass strewn across the street. Insulation tapes blew.
The Palace of Ukraine, one of the country’s largest concert halls, usually stages children’s plays during the day on New Year’s Eve, but was closed this year due to power outages from previous strikes, Andriy Vidysh, the venue’s deputy director, said in an interview. The lobby and dressing rooms were damaged.
Igor Surucanu, a lawyer, came to look at a nearby building at the behest of clients. The structure was standing, he said, but the blast wave went through it, breaking windows and even knocking the interior doors off their frames.
That a civilian neighborhood had been hit, he said, did not terrify him – it showed Russia in a state of desperation.
“Looking at this, I think we’re going to win,” he said. He said he knew of no military targets or even electrical infrastructure in the area; a nearby factory that once produced military electronics had closed years earlier.
“Of course, they did this especially on New Year’s Eve,” Mr Surucanu said. He said Russian President Vladimir V. Putin “wants to spoil the holiday with his fireworks, knock us out and punish us because we don’t want to be Russian.”
About a mile away, a rocket or falling debris had slammed into a residential neighborhood, exploding with a deafening bang that sent 26-year-old Irina Sidorets running to the basement while carrying her 5-year-old daughter, Halina.
It wasn’t until she jumped out that she realized she was barefoot and that the stairs were covered in shards of glass. She stepped carefully and avoided cutting herself.
As dusk fell over Kyiv on New Year’s Eve, Ms Sidorets said she had no idea where she and Halina would spend the holiday. The apartment block was evacuated due to a gas leak. She was making pizza, Halina’s favorite food, and the holiday presents were still in the apartment.
“Now we don’t know what’s going to happen or where we’re going to spend the night,” she said.
Oksana Trufanova also fled to the basement of her building when the explosions began, carrying her disabled child. Later, after the hits, she stood on the sidewalk saying over and over “I hate them!”
The explosion has blown windows off the hinges of her apartment. They can be repaired, but the celebration she had planned won’t happen. For the New Year’s dinner, she prepared pelmeni with cherries and pelmeni with potatoes, a daughter-in-law’s favorite dishes.
“I screamed because my strength ran out a little,” said Mrs. Trufanova.
Alexander Chubko and Nikita Simonchuk contributed reporting from Kyiv.
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