Russia bombards Ukraine with ‘cowardly’ fresh wave of attacks on New Year’s Day

A serviceman collects fragments of missile in a crater left by a Russian strike in front of a residential building in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on December 31 (AFP via Getty Images)
A serviceman collects fragments of missile in a crater left by a Russian strike in front of a residential building in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on December 31 (AFP via Getty Images)

Ukraine was subjected to a “cowardly” barrage of fresh attacks by Russia in the early hours of New Year’s Day - as Moscow saw in 2023 by attacking civilian targets.

Ukraine’s Air Force command said it had destroyed 45 Iranian-made Shahed drones overnight - 32 of them on Sunday after midnight and 13 late on Saturday.

That was on top of 31 missile attacks and 12 air strikes that have hit the country in the past 24 hours.

One drone used in an attack on Kyiv appeared to bear a hand-written note saying ‘happy new year’ in Russian, in a photo posted on the Telegram messaging app by the capital’s chief of police, Andriy Nebytov.

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“This wreckage is not at the front, where fierce battles are taking place, this is here, on a sports grounds, where children play,” Mr Nebytov said.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said it had targeted production, storage and launch sites of Ukrainian drones with long range missiles on New Year‘s Eve.

As sirens blared in Kyiv on Saturday, some people shouted from their balconies, “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to heroes!”

The late-night attack caused minimal damage in the capital’s centre, and preliminarily reports indicated there were no wounded or casualties, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on social media.

Attacks earlier on Saturday had hit residential buildings and a hotel in the capital, killing at least one person and injuring more than 20.

Ukrainian soldiers watch Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky’s New Year’s Eve address to the nation, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues (REUTERS)
Ukrainian soldiers watch Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky’s New Year’s Eve address to the nation, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues (REUTERS)

US 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.”

The attacks came as Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky issued a hopeful message on New Year’s Eve.

Speaking in near darkness in front of a fluttering Ukrainian flag, he described the past year as a national awakening.

“We were told: you have no other option but to surrender. We say: we have no other option than to win,” he said.

President Vladimir Putin speaks in a recording of his annual televised New Year's message on New Year's Eve (AP)
President Vladimir Putin speaks in a recording of his annual televised New Year's message on New Year's Eve (AP)

“This year has struck our hearts. We’ve cried out all the tears. We’ve shouted all the prayers,” he continued. “We fight and will continue to fight. For the sake of the key word: ‘victory’.”

Meanwhile Russian President Vladimir Putin signalled no let-up to his assault on Ukraine, in a grim and defiant New Year‘s speech that contrasted with Mr Zelensky’s hopeful message.

“The main thing is the fate of Russia,” a stern-faced Mr Putin said in his New Year‘s Eve address, speaking in front of a group of people dressed in military uniform instead of the normal backdrop of the Kremlin walls.

“Defence of the fatherland is our sacred duty to our ancestors and descendants. Moral, historical righteousness is on our side.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife Olena during their New Year’s address to Ukrainian people (AFP via Getty Images)
President Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife Olena during their New Year’s address to Ukrainian people (AFP via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg on Sunday said Western allies need to “ramp up” arms production in the coming months to ensure Ukraine is kept fully supplied in its war against Russia.

Mr Stoltenberg said the conflict is consuming an “enormous amount” of munitions, amid signs that President Vladimir Putin is digging in for the “long haul”.

At the front line in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk Province, troops toasted the new year. Soldier Pavlo Pryzhehodskiy, 27, played a song on guitar he had written at the front after 12 of his comrades were killed in a single night.

“It is sad that instead of meeting friends, celebrating and giving gifts to one another people were forced to seek shelter, some were killed,” he told news agency Reuters. “It is a huge tragedy. It is a huge tragedy that cannot ever be forgiven. That is why the New Year is sad.”

In a nearby front line trench, soldier Oleh Zahrodskiy, 49, said he had signed up as a volunteer after his son was called up to fight as a reservist. His son was now in a hospital in the southern city of Dnipro, fighting for his life with a brain injury, while his father manned the front.

“It is very tough now,” he said, holding back tears.

Since October, Russia has launched mass missile and drone attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, casting cities into darkness and cold as winter sets in.

Moscow says the strikes aim to reduce Ukraine’s ability to fight; Kyiv says they have no military purpose and are intended to hurt civilians, a war crime.

“Let the day be quiet,” Valentyn Reznichenko, governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region said early on Sunday, after reporting heavy shelling of several communities in the region overnight that wounded one.

Grid operator Ukrenergo said on Sunday the past day had been “difficult” for its workers but the electricity situation was “under control” and emergency outages were not being implemented.