Russia launched new airstrikes across Ukraine on New Year’s Day, but Ukrainians cheered from their balconies in Kyiv as their forces shot down dozens of incoming Russian missiles and drones as the clock ticked into 2023.
Ukraine’s Air Force command said it had destroyed 45 Iranian-made Shahed drones overnight, 13 late Saturday and another 32 in the first hours of the new year.
Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed a renewed fight against Ukraine in a war that is now in its 11th month, with 31 missile attacks and 12 airstrikes across the country at the year’s end.
As sirens blared in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, some people shouted from their balconies, “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to heroes!”
In a New Year’s Eve address, a stern-faced Putin told a group of military officials in Moscow, “The main thing is the fate of Russia. Defense of the fatherland is our sacred duty to our ancestors and descendants. Moral, historical righteousness is on our side.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered his own address in near darkness, in front of a fluttering Ukrainian flag. He cast the past year as a time of Ukrainian resolve.
“We were told: you have no other option but to surrender,” Zelenskyy said. “We say: We have no other option than to win. This year has struck our hearts. We’ve cried out all the tears. We’ve shouted all the prayers.
“We fight and will continue to fight,” he declared. “For the sake of the key word: ‘victory.’”
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said there was minimal damage from the latest attack on the capital, and no one was wounded or killed. One person was killed and another 20 injured in the Saturday attacks on residential buildings and a hotel.
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.”
For weeks now, Russia has focused its attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure, trying to destroy the country’s power grid and water supplies, inflicting pain on Ukrainians in the winter months. Russia has claimed to illegally annex about a fifth of Ukrainian territory but retreated from more regions it first captured during the fighting after Ukraine’s forces fought back with the assistance of Western-supplied weaponry, munitions and air defense systems.
The fighting for weeks has been centered in eastern Ukraine with something of a stalemate and seemingly no immediate chance for peace talks.
Western leaders have vowed to continue their support for Ukraine in the new year, with U.S. President Joe Biden recently welcoming Zelenskyy to Washington and the Ukrainian leader making an address before cheering lawmakers in Congress.
In a New Year’s Eve address, French President Emmanuel Macron said, “In the year that is starting, we will stand by you without fail.”
Some material for this article came from The Associated Press and Reuters.