Defiant Ukrainians celebrate New Year amid barrage of attacks from Russia
Defiant Ukrainians cheered the new year amid air raid warnings and outbursts from Russian airstrikes – as President Volodymyr Zelensky proclaimed 2022 “the year of Ukraine”.
Instead of the midnight celebratory fireworks boom in the capital Kyiv, Ukrainians were greeted with piercing warnings of airstrikes as Russian rockets and drones rained down in attacks that Ukrainian officials say deliberately targeted civilians to sow fear and erode morale.
The shelling has been virtually non-stop since Thursday, when Moscow began launching airstrikes to damage Ukraine’s electricity and water installations, part of a campaign launched in October to increase the suffering of Ukrainians during the ‘winter.
Explosions could be heard around Kyiv on Saturday and throughout the night as officials reported damage to several residential buildings in the capital, including two schools, and windows were blown out at a children’s hospital in Kherson .
When the shells hit the hospital, surgeons were operating on a 13-year-old boy who had been seriously injured in a nearby village earlier in the day, Kherson Governor Yaroslav Yanushevych said. He had to be transferred to another hospital about 100 km from Mykolaiv.
At least three people have been killed in shelling across Ukraine and dozens more have been injured.
Oleksander Dugyn and his friends and family in Kyiv watched as Ukrainian Air Defense Forces focused on Russian drones and missiles in the night sky.
“We already know the sound of rockets, we know when they fly, we know the sound of drones. The sound is like the roar of a moped,” Dugyn told The Associated Press. “We’re holding on as best we can.”
Ukraine’s air command said it destroyed 45 Iranian-made drones in 24 hours – 13 on Saturday and 32 since midnight Sunday.
Amid the onslaught, Zelensky and President Vladimir Putin addressed their people in speeches on New Year’s Eve.
The Russian leader presented his war against Ukraine, which he launched almost a year ago on February 24, as a fight for the “fate of Russia”.
“Defending the homeland is our sacred duty to our ancestors and descendants. Moral and historical justice is on our side,” he said as he stood before a group of people in military uniforms.
He said the intention of the United States and Western nations was to use Ukraine to “weaken and divide Russia”.
Zelensky, speaking with a Ukrainian flag flying behind him, addressed the Russian people in his own language.
“Your propagandists are lying,” he said. “All this war you’re waging…is for one person to stay in power for the rest of their life.”
Looking back to 2022 since the start of the Russian invasion, Zelensky proclaimed, “It was our year.”
“It was dark. It was loud. It was hard for many and scary for some. Three hundred and eleven days have passed. It may still be dark, loud and complicated for us. But we will certainly never be afraid again . And we will never be ashamed,” Zelensky said. “It was our year. The year of Ukraine. The year of Ukrainians.
As Zelensky spoke, people shouted “Glory to Ukraine. Glory to the heroes” from their balconies.
Yet others have thought of those who serve on the front lines.
“Of course it was difficult to fully celebrate because we understand that our soldiers cannot be with their families,” said Kyiv resident Evheniya Shulzhenko.
With post wires