Russia-Ukraine war: Zelensky vows Ukraine will fight until victory is won

Russia-Ukraine war: Zelensky vows Ukraine will fight until victory is won

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Russian attacks partially destroyed a hotel, damaged houses and left a crater on a residential street in Ukraine’s capital.Creditcredit…Laura Bushnack for The New York Times
credit…Laura Bushnack for The New York Times
credit…Laura Bushnack for The New York Times

KYIV, Ukraine — Russia rained missiles and exploding drones on Ukraine’s capital and other cities on Saturday in a deadly New Year’s Eve attack, underscoring President Vladimir Putin’s stated resolve in a speech to continue the war, which he called a “sacred duty to our ancestors and descendants.”

The airstrikes killed at least one person and partially destroyed a hotel in the capital, Kyiv, damaged other locations and forced Ukraine’s war-ravaged power companies to cut power as a precaution.

“There are explosions in Kyiv! Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko wrote on the Telegram messaging app. “Stay in shelters!”

Air defenses shot down 12 of at least 20 cruise missiles fired by Russia on Saturday afternoon, Ukraine’s top military commander, General Valery Zaluzhny, said on Telegram. The missiles were fired by Russian strategic bombers over the Caspian Sea and from ground-based launch vehicles, he said.

The afternoon bombardment followed a lull, but air raid sirens sounded again in Kyiv shortly after midnight, followed shortly after by an explosion as Russia continued its attack on Ukraine in the early hours of 2023. Ukrainian officials said air defense systems had brought down approaching rocket and Mr. Klitschko wrote on Telegram that a missile fragment hit a car, but no one was injured.

Then, shortly after 2 a.m., half a dozen loud explosions rocked central Kyiv, reverberating through an otherwise dark and still city where residents were confined to their apartments due to a curfew despite the holiday. It is not clear if anti-aircraft guns are firing or if missiles or drones are hitting the city.

For three months, Russia has fired barrages of cruise missiles and drones at Ukraine’s energy grid, in what military analysts say is a strategy to plunge the country into cold and darkness to lower morale.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned on Thursday that the Russian military could launch a new wave of missile attacks ahead of year-end celebrations. Moscow fired a large volley in the past week there was a power outage in Kyiv and other cities.

In a video message on Saturday, Mr Zelensky called the Russian strikes on New Year’s Eve “inhuman”.

In Kyiv, rockets on Saturday damaged a hotel, a major concert hall, a university campus, some residential buildings and two schools, according to the city’s mayor and defense officials. At least 20 people were injured, including a Japanese journalist, the city hall said.

“A terrorist state will not be forgiven,” Mr Zelensky said. “Both those who give orders for such strikes and those who carry them out will not be pardoned. To put it mildly.”

In Russia, Mr Putin used his New Year’s address on Saturday to rally support for the war, saying “moral and historical righteousness is on our side”. Breaking with tradition, he spoke from a military base surrounded by soldiers.

What electricity was available ahead of Saturday’s strikes in much of the cities of Kyiv and Odesa and in the Dnipropetrovsk region of central Ukraine as authorities preemptively shut off power to prevent short-circuiting the grid from strike damage. About 30 percent of consumers are without power in Kyiv, Mr. Klitschko said.

Minutes after the explosions in Kyiv, there were reports of damage in several neighborhoods of the capital, and a video posted on the Telegram messaging site showed smoke rising over the city. Mr Klitschko said a man had died in Kyiv and at least 14 others – including a Japanese journalist – had been hospitalised.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, an aide to Mr Zelensky, said the town of Khmelnytskyi, in western Ukraine, had been attacked by exploding drones and two people had been injured. In the Zaporozhye region, residential buildings were damaged and four people were injured, including a 14-year-old girl.

Between the larger waves of strikes on Thursday and Saturday, the Russian military kept up pressure on Ukraine’s energy grid with smaller-scale missile attacks, according to Ukraine’s military general staff.

On Saturday morning, Ukraine’s General Staff said in a statement that Russia had fired five missiles and 10 exploding drones and carried out 29 airstrikes against civilian infrastructure in the past 24 hours.

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