Kyiv rocked by blasts amid Russia’s New Year attacks

A new round of explosions rocked Kiev less than an hour ago in 2023, after Russia attacked Ukraine with missiles targeting the capital and other cities ahead of New Year’s celebrations.

The first explosions of the new year began about 30 minutes after midnight, hitting two districts, Mayor Vitaly Klitschko said in a telegram, adding there were no immediate reports of casualties.

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

“We are fighting and will continue to fight. For the key word: ‘victory’,” he said in a speech, after new waves of strikes saw his country end the year.

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

“We are fighting as a team – the whole country, all our regions. I appreciate 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 President Vladimir Putin delivered his midnight speech — usually with the Kremlin in the background — standing among servicemen and women who fought in Ukraine.

He said “historical justice” was on their side.

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

Klitschko said on social media that at least one person had died as a result of Saturday’s attacks, and city officials said 22 others were injured.

An explosion ripped open a corner of the four-star Hotel Alfavido in Kiev, spilling rubble onto the street, an AFP reporter saw.

Nearby sidewalks, including Kiev’s National Palace of Arts, were covered in glass from windows in the area.

Filmmaker Yaroslav Mudenko, 23, lives in a nearby apartment and said he was preparing to leave for a New Year’s Eve party when he heard a boom.

He said there had been similar explosions in the area during an earlier attack in October, but nothing as loud as Saturday’s.

He told AFP he still planned to go to a party at a friend’s house as he saw rescue workers cordon off the street in front of the hotel.

“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 I understand that it’s important to have people around this year.”

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

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

Mykolaiv Mayor Oleksandr Sienkievic said a fire broke out in one of the city’s districts and several residential buildings were damaged as a result of the strikes.

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

Putin celebrated the New Year

  • In Ukraine’s west, at least four people were injured in the Khmelnytskyi region, as part of the city of Khmelnytskyi was left without power, Governor Serhiy Kamali said.

Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Ukraine’s chief of staff, said Russia launched 20 cruise missiles on Saturday, shooting down 12.

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

Among the recipients of the awards was the Russian commander in Ukraine, Gen. Sergey Surovikhin, Russian news agencies reported.

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

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

Putin said this year was marked by “really important, exceptional events” that became “a boundary that lays the foundation for our common future, for our true freedom.”

“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 the four Ukrainian regions that Russia said it had annexed.

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

The Defense Ministry announced the capture of the village of Doroshnyanga in the southern Zaporizhia region — a rare gain as Russia has suffered several setbacks in Ukraine.

The ministry said 82 Russian servicemen had been freed as part of a prisoner exchange with Ukraine, while Kyiv said it had repatriated 140.

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