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Ukraine Faces Grim Start To 2023 After Fresh Russian Attacks

Another strike at noon Sunday in the southern Zaporizhzhia region killed one person, according to the head of the regional military administration, Alexander Starukh.

IMAGE: AP


Ukrainians faced a grim start to 2023 as Sunday brought more Russian missile and drone attacks following a blistering New Year's Eve assault that killed at least three civilians across the country, authorities reported. Air raid sirens sounded in the capital shortly after midnight, followed by a barrage of missiles that interrupted the small celebrations residents held at home due to wartime curfews. Ukrainian officials alleged Moscow was deliberately targeting civilians along with critical infrastructure to create a climate of fear and destroy morale during the long winter months.

In a video address Sunday night, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised his citizens' “sense of unity, of authenticity, of life itself.” The Russians, he said, “will not take away a single year from Ukraine. They will not take away our independence. We will not give them anything.” Ukrainian forces in the air and on the ground shot down 45 Iranian-made explosive drones fired by Russia on Saturday night and before dawn Sunday, Zelenskyy said.

Another strike at noon Sunday in the southern Zaporizhzhia region killed one person, according to the head of the regional military administration, Alexander Starukh. But Kyiv was largely quiet, and people there on New Year's Day savored the snippets of peace. “Of course it was hard to celebrate fully because we understand that our soldiers can't be with their family,” 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 Zelenskyy lifted her spirits and made her proud to be Ukrainian, Shulzhenko said. She recently moved to Kyiv after living in Bakhmut and Kharkiv, two cities that have experienced some of the heaviest fighting of the war.

Multiple blasts rocked the capital and other areas of Ukraine on Saturday and through the night, wounding dozens. An AP photographer at the scene of an explosion in Kyiv saw a woman's body as her husband and son stood nearby. Ukraine's largest university, the Taras Shevchenko National University in Kyiv, reported significant damage to its buildings and campus. Mayor Vitali Klitschko said two schools were damaged, including a kindergarten.

The strikes came 36 hours after widespread missile attacks Russia launched Thursday to damage energy infrastructure facilities. Saturday's unusually quick follow-up alarmed Ukrainian officials. Russia has carried out airstrikes on Ukrainian power and water supplies almost weekly since October, increasing the suffering of Ukrainians, while 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 in a children's hospital, according to deputy presidential chief of staff Kyrylo Tymoshenko. Ukrainian forces reclaimed the city in November after Russia's forces withdrew across the Dnieper River, which bisects the Kherson region.

When shells hit the children's hospital on Saturday night, surgeons were operating on a 13-year-old boy who was seriously wounded in a nearby village that evening, Kherson Gov. Yaroslav Yanushevych said. The boy was transferred in serious condition to a hospital about 99 kilometers (62 miles) away in Mykolaiv.

Elsewhere, a 22-year-old woman died of wounds from a Saturday rocket attack Saturday in the eastern town of Khmelnytskyi, the city's mayor said. Instead of New Year's fireworks, Oleksander Dugyn said he and his friends and family in Kyiv watched the sparks caused by Ukrainian air defense forces countering 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 roar of a moped,” said Dugin, who was strolling with his family in the park. “We hold on the best we can.” While Russia's bombardments have left many Ukrainians without heating and electricity due to damage or controlled blackouts meant to preserve the remaining power supply, Ukraine's state-owned grid operator said Sunday there would be no restrictions on electricity use for one day.

“The power industry is doing everything possible to ensure that the New Year's holiday is with light, without restrictions,” utility company Ukrenergo said.

It said businesses and industry had cut back to allow the additional electricity for households. Zelenskyy, in his nightly address, thanked utility workers for helping to keep the lights on during the latest assault. “It is very important how all Ukrainians recharged their inner energy this New Year's Eve,” he said.

In separate tweets Sunday, the Ukrainian leader also reminded the European Union of his country's wish to join the EU. He thanked the Czech Republic and congratulated Sweden, which just exchanged the EU's rotating presidency, for their help in securing progress for Ukraine's bid. (AP) MRJ

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