Russian airstrikes hit Ukrainian civilians
Fed up with huddled for safety in their hallways and bathrooms during Russian airstrikes, residents of a Kyiv neighborhood took a different approach in the opening moments of the New Year.
Despite the risks, dozens of people in a neighborhood of high-rise buildings came out onto their balconies and sang the Ukrainian national anthem just after midnight.
A bit fake and hoarse, with some voices sounding drunk, they recorded themselves in videos as a swarm of explosive drones buzzed over the capital in an attack that followed a barrage of missiles earlier in the evening New Year’s Eve, killing at least one person and injuring more than 20. Others posted memes and traded jokes.
Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, have called Russia a terrorist state. The air defenses fired all night. A new searchlight system, meant to spot nighttime drones, swept across Kyiv’s skies. Air raid alerts sounded and booms echoed through the city streets. Yet in a central area of the capital, some New Year parties could be heard continuing even after the blasts.
The momentary good mood masked harsh realities for a country that remains under attack.
During the fall, Kyiv turned the tide of ground fighting in the southeast, leading the swing fights resume. But regardless of its successes on the battlefield, ten months into the war Ukraine can do little to prevent Russia from launching missile strikes, even if its air defenses mitigate their impact. .
The Ukrainians are left with no choice but to endure – to take whatever Russia can throw at them, while maintaining their resolve and defiance.
In the New Year attack, the Russian military fired 31 cruise missiles, Ukraine’s General Staff headquarters said in an early war update on Sunday. A drone attack followed with 45 flying bombs launched overnight – 13 before the new year and 32 after midnight. The Ukrainian army said it shot them all. There was no way to independently confirm the statements.
In the capital, authorities began the year collecting mutilated metal debris from missiles and drones shot down over the city. Fragments fell on cars, on the road and at a subway station, temporarily closing a subway line, officials said.
Ukraine has developed long-range drones to retaliate, and Russian airfields from which bombers take off to launch cruise missiles suffered two drone attacks in December. But these are pinpricks compared to Moscow’s massive waves of strikes on Ukrainian cities and civilian infrastructure like power plants, electricity pylons and hydroelectric dams. There have been 11 since the attacks began in October.
Over the fall, Mr. Zelensky persuaded his allies to speed up deliveries of several sophisticated air defense systems to Ukraine.
In ground fighting, movements have mostly stalled since the Ukrainian army pushed back Russian forces from the west bank of the Dnipro in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine in November.
The advance allowed Ukraine to advance the artillery. Today, many – but not all – Russian supply lines in southern Ukraine are within range of long-range Ukrainian artillery, which strikes targets behind Russian lines, even though the lines themselves- even do not move.
To the east, in the Donbass region, Russia is pursuing its only remaining offensive.
The Russian force is partly made up of units assembled by a private military contractor and includes convicts who have been promised pardon in exchange for fighting for Moscow in Ukraine. Trench warfare swung back and forth over the outlying districts of Bakhmut town and neighboring villages for months, with advances and retreats on both sides often measured in a few hundred yards.
The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based research group, said over the weekend that Russian attacks had slowed for lack of artillery ammunition. Movements have also been slowed on both sides by wet winter conditions which can confine tanks and other heavy armored vehicles to the roads, lest they get bogged down in mud.
“I am convinced that Ukraine has achieved irreversible momentum,” Lt. Gen. Frederick Hodges, the former US commanding general in Europe, said in an interview late last month. Pointing to continued Ukrainian strikes on supply lines, he said: “This is exactly how the conditions for the next phase of maneuver are set.”
But the missile war is less favorable to Ukraine.
Despite all their spirit of defiance and determination, Ukrainians remain vulnerable. Sheltered underground, in the hallways or bathrooms of their homes, they do what they can to protect themselves from repeated missile fire. Sometimes children are placed in iron tubs for added protection from flying debris.
Military analysts say attacks on critical infrastructure targets are aimed at cutting off electricity and heating in winter and demoralizing the population. An explosive drone shot down over Kyiv had a defiant message written on one wing: “Happy New Year!!!” and the word “boom” according to a photograph posted on the social networking site. The photograph could not be independently verified.
Weeks of power outages have taken their toll. During the autumn, the net outflow of Ukrainians to Poland – already a major destination for millions of refugees – increased slightly.
Jokes poking fun at the Russian military over its setbacks may boost Ukrainian morale during strikes, but they are often backed up by seething anger.
In Kyiv, people expressed outrage at the holiday attack as they gathered on Saturday afternoon at sites damaged by missile strikes or falling debris. The anger was all the more palpable because as Russia lost ground on the battlefield, it began to aim its missiles at targets of no direct military value. Mr. Zelensky called the strikes “revenge of the losers”.
During this holiday season, a popular Christmas tree decoration has been a Vladimir Putin figurine. It is suspended by a small slipknot.
After Mr Putin gave a New Year’s Eve speech to Russian soldiers, an edited version of the image quickly circulated in Ukraine of the Russian president standing in front of a pile of black body bags.