Missiles struck Kyiv on Saturday as Russian forces unleashed a barrage of air attacks across Ukraine after president Volodymyr Zelenskyy pledged to reinforce his nation’s air defences in the new year.
Two outlying areas were most affected by the strikes, though one struck the Alfavito hotel in central Kyiv. One person was killed, eight were hurt, and one of the victims was a Japanese journalist. Kyiv mayor Vitaliy Klitschko wrote in a post on the Telegram app.
“There is destruction. Rescuers and medics are going to the scene,” Klitschko said.
Emergency services rushed through Kyiv’s streets after at least seven loud booms were heard overhead as the incoming missiles triggered the city’s air defence systems.
Ukrainian officials also reported Russian missile attacks in Mykolayiv, in the south of Ukraine, and Khmelnytkskyi, in the west.
Many Ukrainians were doing last-minute shopping before New Year’s Eve, the country’s biggest festival of the year.
The attacks are central to the Kremlin’s war strategy, which seeks to destroy critical infrastructure and erode Ukrainian morale.
Although they have led to rolling black outs — and state energy company Ukrenergo implemented temporary power cuts across much of the country on Saturday to reduce the risk of overloading the electricity grid — so far they have not damaged Ukrainians’ resolve.
As air raid sirens sounded, two buskers continued to play a classical rendition of “Strangers in the Night” by Kyiv’s Golden Gate national monument.
“The strikes don’t really work. It’s all just part of a show for Russian domestic television in which everyone else — you, me, Ukraine, the west — are a supporting cast,” said Alex Kovzhun, a Ukrainian political consultant.
This latest attack came just days after Joe Biden, the US president, stated that he had authorized one Patriot missile battery to be delivered to Kyiv in the next few months. Zelenskyy has long pleaded with his US and European allies to bolster Ukraine’s air defences, which rely mostly on Soviet-era equipment, with more sophisticated systems.
“This year we didn’t just save our air defence, we made it the strongest ever,” Zelensky said in his evening address on Friday. “But in the new year Ukraine’s air defence will become even stronger and more efficient.”
Russia has increased its use of drone and missile strikes after its ground campaign became slowed by counteroffensives from Ukraine.
In a New Year’s Eve message broadcast from the headquarters of Russia’s southern military district army corps on Saturday, Putin pledged to put an end to the “criminal Nazi regime in Kyiv”.
Many of the speeches were used to justify Moscow’s full-scale invasion on February 24. Putin, flanked by uniformed soldiers, complained about traitors, western lies, neo-Nazis, plots to split Russia apart and the conquest of Russia’s historical territories”.
In a separate New Year message, defence minister Sergei Shoigu, who has been widely criticised for Russia’s battlefield failures, claimed that victory was “inevitable” in 2023.
Officials from Ukraine responded with defiance. “This cynical attack on New Year’s Eve fully shows Russia’s disgusting essence,” presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted.
Ukraine’s defence ministry said in a statement: “With each new missile attack on civilian infrastructure, more and more Ukrainians are convinced of the need to fight until the complete collapse of Putin’s regime.”
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