Ukrainians cheer the new year as Russian drones are blasted from the skies

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Rescuers work at an area heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Mykolaiv, Ukraine December 31, 2022. REUTERS/Oleksandr Ratushniak

Ukrainians cheered from their balconies while their air defences blasted Russian missiles and drones out of the sky in the first hours of 2023, as Moscow saw in the new year by attacking civilian targets across Ukraine.

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 across the country in the past 24 hours.

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 a hopeful message of gratitude and unity from Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

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

Fragments from 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.

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.”

At the front line in Urkaine’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 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.

‘HAPPY NEW YEAR’

Andrii Nebytov, chief of Kyiv’s police, posted a photo on his Telegram messaging app, showing what was described as a piece of drone used in an attack on the capital, with a hand-written sign on it in Russian saying “Happy New Year”.

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

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