Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) – Ukrainians faced a dismal start to 2023 as Sunday brought more Russian missile and drone strikes after a devastating New Year’s Eve attack that killed at least three civilians across the country, authorities reported.
Air raid sirens rang out in the capital just after midnight, followed by a barrage of missiles that interrupted small celebrations residents were holding at home due to the wartime curfew. Ukrainian officials claimed Moscow is deliberately targeting civilians along with critical infrastructure to create a climate of fear and shatter morale during the long winter months.
In a video address on Sunday evening, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised the “sense of unity, of authenticity, of life itself” among its citizens. The Russians, he said, “will not take a single year from Ukraine. You will not take away our independence. We won’t give them anything.”
Ukrainian air and ground forces shot down 45 Iranian-made explosive drones fired by Russia on Saturday night and before sunrise on Sunday, Zelenskyy said.
Another strike on Sunday afternoon in the southern Zaporizhia region killed one person, according to the head of the regional military administration, Alexander Starukh. But Kyiv was largely quiet, and the people there enjoyed the snippets of peace on New Year’s Day.
“Of course, it was difficult to celebrate fully because we understand that our soldiers cannot be with their families,” Evheniya Shulzhenko said while sitting with her husband on a park bench overlooking the city.
But a “really powerful” New Year’s Eve speech by Zelensky lifted her spirits and made her proud to be Ukrainian, Zhuzhenko said. She recently moved to Kyiv after living in Bakhmut and Kharkiv, two cities that saw some of the war’s heaviest fighting.
Multiple explosions rocked the capital and other areas of Ukraine on Saturday and overnight, injuring dozens. An AP photographer saw the body of a woman at the scene of an explosion in Kyiv as her husband and son stood nearby.
The largest university in Ukraine, the National Taras Shevchenko University in Kyiv, reported significant damage to buildings and campus. Mayor Vitali Klitschko said two schools were damaged, including a kindergarten.
The attacks came 36 hours after widespread rocket attacks launched by Russia on Thursday to damage energy infrastructure facilities. The unusually rapid follow-up on Saturday alerted Ukrainian officials. Russia has been conducting airstrikes on Ukraine’s electricity and water supplies almost weekly since October, adding to the suffering of Ukrainians as its ground forces struggle to hold ground and advance.
Nighttime shelling in parts of the southern city of Kherson killed one person and blew out hundreds of windows at a children’s hospital, according to the president’s deputy chief of staff Kyrylo Tymoshenko. Ukrainian forces recaptured the city in November after Russian forces retreated across the Dnieper River bisecting the Kherson region.
When shells hit the children’s hospital on Saturday night, surgeons that night operated on a 13-year-old boy who was seriously injured in a nearby village, Kherson governor Yaroslav Yanushevich said. The boy was taken to a hospital in Mykolayiv, about 99 kilometers away, in serious condition.
Elsewhere, a 22-year-old woman died from wounds from a rocket attack on Saturday in the eastern city of Khmelnytskyi, the city’s mayor said.
Instead of the New Year’s fireworks, Oleksander Dugyn said he and his friends and family watched in Kyiv the sparks caused by Ukrainian air defense forces repelling Russian attacks.
“We already know the sound of rockets, we know the moment they fly, we know the sound of drones. The sound is like the rumble of a moped,” said Dugin, who was walking in the park with his family. “We’re holding out as best we can”
While Russia’s bombings have left many Ukrainians without heating and electricity to keep up with the remaining electricity supply due to damage or controlled blackouts, Ukraine’s state grid operator said on Sunday there would be no electricity cuts for one day.
“The energy industry is doing everything to ensure that the New Year holidays are bright without restrictions,” said energy supplier Ukrenergo.
Companies and industry have made cuts to enable the additional electricity for households.
In his late night address, Zelenskyy thanked utility workers for helping to keep the lights on during the latest attack. “It is very important how all Ukrainians recharged their inner energy on New Year’s Eve,” he said.
In separate tweets on Sunday, the Ukrainian leader also reminded the European Union of his country’s desire to join the EU. He thanked the Czech Republic and congratulated Sweden, which has just changed the rotating EU presidency, for its help in ensuring progress on Ukraine’s bid.
Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the 30 members of the western military alliance must “boost” arms production in the coming months, both to maintain their own stockpiles and to continue supplying Ukraine with the weapons it needs to defend against Russia.
The war in Ukraine, now in its 11th month, is consuming an “enormous amount” of ammunition, Stoltenberg told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend in an interview that aired on Sunday.
“It is a core responsibility of NATO to ensure we have the supplies, supplies and weapons to ensure our own deterrence and defense but also to be able to provide long-term support to Ukraine,” he said.
Achieving the twin goals “is a massive undertaking. We have to ramp up production, and that’s exactly what the NATO allies are doing,” Stoltenberg said.
The NATO chief said that while Russia has experienced setbacks on the battlefield and fighting on the ground appears to be at a stalemate, “Russia has shown no sign that its overall goal of taking control of Ukraine give up.” he said.
“The Ukrainian armed forces have had the momentum for several months, but we also know that Russia has mobilized many more forces. Many of them are training now.
“All of this indicates that they are ready to continue the war and possibly also try to launch a new offensive,” Stoltenberg said.
He added that what Ukraine can achieve in the negotiations to end the war will depend on the strength it shows on the battlefield.
“If we want a negotiated solution that ensures that Ukraine will assert itself as a sovereign, independent and democratic state in Europe, then we must support Ukraine now,” said Stoltenberg.
For more AP stories about the war in Ukraine, visit https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.