Russian drones attack critical infrastructure in and around Kyiv, officials say
Ukrainians cheered from their balconies as their air defenses shot Russian missiles and drones out of the sky in the early hours of the New Year, which Moscow ushered in by attacking civilian targets across Ukraine.
“Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the hero!” some shouted as air raid sirens sounded during the late night attack.
Ukrainian forces shot down 45 Iranian-made Sahed drones fired by Russia on the first night of the year, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday, praising Ukrainians for showing gratitude to the troops and each other.
“Drones, missiles, anything else will not help them,” he said of the Russians. “Because we are united. They are united only by fear.”
However, in a stern New Year’s speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled no let-up in his attack on Ukraine.
“It is strong in the region and in the capital: drone attacks at night,” Kyiv Governor Oleksiy Kuleba said about Monday’s air attack.
“The Russians have launched several waves of Shahed drones. They target critical infrastructure facilities. Air defense is working,” he said on the Telegram messaging app.
By 3 am (0100 GMT), Ukraine’s air defense systems destroyed 20 aerial objects over Kyiv, its military administration said. By then, the air raid sirens had been going for over four hours.
Earlier, one person was injured by debris from a destroyed drone over Kyiv that hit a road and damaged a building in a northeastern district of the capital, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.
A 19-year-old man was taken to a hospital in the Desnianskiy district, Klitschko said on the Telegram app. The mainly residential district on the left bank of the Dnipro River is the most populated of Kiev.
Ukrainian presidential aide Kyrylo Tymoshenko also said that the debris hit a road in the district, damaging an adjacent building.
Reuters could not independently verify the information.
The regional military command in eastern Ukraine said air defense systems destroyed nine Iranian-made Shahed drones over the Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhzhia regions by the early hours of Monday.
NEW YEAR IN THE TRENCHES
On Twitter, the US ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, said, “Russia coldly and cowardly attacked Ukraine in the early hours of the new year. But Putin is still nowhere to be seen who understands that Ukrainians are made of iron.”
Troops toast the new year on the front line in Donetsk province, eastern Ukraine. One soldier, Pavlo Pryzhehodskiy, 27 years old, plays on the guitar a song he wrote after 12 of his comrades were killed in one night.
“It is sad that instead of meeting friends, celebrating and giving each other gifts, people were forced to seek shelter, some were killed,” he told Reuters.
“It’s a huge tragedy. It’s a huge tragedy that can never be forgiven. That’s why the New Year is so sad.”
In a nearby trench, 49-year-old soldier Oleh Zahrodskiy said he volunteered after his son was called up to fight as a reservist. Now, his son is in a hospital in the southern city of Dnipro, fighting for his life with a brain injury, while his father takes care of the front.
“It’s very hard now,” he said, holding back tears.
‘HAPPY NEW YEAR’
Kiev police chief Andrii Nebytov uploaded a photo on the Telegram app, showing what was described as a piece of drone used in an attack on the capital, with a handwritten sign on it with the Russian reading “Happy New Year”.
“This wreckage is not at the front, where fierce battles are taking place, this is here, on a sports field, where children play,” said Nebytov.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said it had targeted the production, storage and launch sites of Ukrainian drones with long-range missiles on New Year’s Eve.
Russia has flattened Ukrainian cities and killed thousands of civilians since Putin ordered his invasion in February, claiming that Ukraine was an artificial state whose pro-Western outlook threatened Russia’s security.
Moscow has since claimed to have annexed around a fifth of Ukraine.
Ukraine fought back with Western military support, driving Russian forces from more than half of the territory they seized. In recent weeks, the front lines have been largely static, with thousands of soldiers dying in intense trench warfare.
Since October, Russia has launched mass missile and drone attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, plunging cities into darkness and cold as winter sets in.
Moscow says the attacks are aimed at reducing Ukraine’s ability to fight; Kyiv says they have no military purpose and are intended to harm civilians, a war crime.
“The main thing is the fate of Russia,” Putin said in a New Year’s Eve speech to a group dressed in military uniform, instead of the event’s normal backdrop of the Kremlin walls.
“The defense of the homeland is our sacred duty to our ancestors and descendants. Moral and historical righteousness is on our side.”
(Reporting by Reuters bureaus; Writing by Peter Graff, Lidia Kelly, Dan Peleschuk and Michael Perry; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
By Pavel Polityuk and Herbert Villarraga