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KYIV — Ukrainians welcomed in 2023 on January 1 following a day of intensified Russian missile attacks on civilian targets as the presidents of both countries issued New Year’s addresses aimed at boosting spirits of their troops and fellow citizens.
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Multiple explosions rang out in Kyiv late on December 31 after a reported Russian missile strike on the Ukrainian capital and amid further Russian attacks elsewhere in Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on social media that Ukraine will never forgive Moscow after the latest rocket and drone attacks. He took direct aim at Russian President Vladimir Putin as the cause of the conflict.
“There were several waves of missile attacks on New Year’s Eve. Missiles targeting people…. No one in the world will forgive you for this. Ukraine will not forgive,” he said.
“All this war that you are waging — you, Russia. It is not the war with NATO, as your propagandists lie. It is not for something historical. It’s for one person to remain in power until the end of his life.
“And what will be with all of you, citizens of Russia, does not concern him,” he added. “He hides behind you and burns your country and your future.”
For the New Year, he said in a video address to fellow Ukrainians, “I want to wish all of us one thing — victory.”
Meanwhile, Putin — in his New Year’s address on December 31 — claimed that “moral, historical rightness” is on Russia’s side, even amid growing international condemnation for his country’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
In a post on Telegram, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said one person had been killed and 22 wounded, including a Japanese journalist, in the latest missile and drone attack on the capital.
He added that 30 percent of Kyiv residents were without electricity.
The Ukrainian military said its defense forces had shot down many of missiles fired on December 31 ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations, but it added that some got through, hitting civilian infrastructure. At least six missiles were targeted toward the capital.
Russian forces fired “more than 20 cruise missiles,” the commander in chief of the armed forces of Ukraine, Valery Zaluzhny, said. “Our air defense destroyed 12 [of them].”
Oleksandr Pavlyuk, deputy commander of Ukrainian land forces, wrote on Telegram that civilian sites in three districts of Kyiv were damaged, including a private home and a hotel.
“For the occupiers, there are no laws and customs of warfare,” he wrote. “They think they will defeat us: If not on the battlefield, then by destroying our cities.
“But…they are doomed to failure,” he added. “Because we will not stop fighting until we regain every inch of our land.”
The fresh attacks come just two days after Russia launched what has been described as one of its largest air assaults on Ukraine since the start of the war.
Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, Moscow has denied that it has targeted civilians, despite ever-mounting evidence it has done so. The UN confirmed the deaths of at least 6,884 civilians and the injuries of 10,947 more as of December 26.
Following the injury to the Japanese journalist, Tokyo’s embassy in Kyiv said it was “deeply outraged by the repeated massive attack on civilians and civilian objects in Ukraine on New Year’s Eve, which led to the death and injury of civilians, including a Japanese journalist.”
Pictures and video posted to Twitter showed the facade of Kyiv’s Alfavito Hotel charred and destroyed.
WATCH: Despite constant shelling by Russian forces, a festive New Year’s tree was put up in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, a hotly contested area in Ukraine’s Donetsk region. Most of Bakhmut’s prewar popular of 70,000 have fled. Volunteers hope the New Year’s tree will be a sign of hope for those who remain in the embattled city.
Russian missile strikes were reported elsewhere, including in the Mykolayiv region and the Khmelnytskiy region in the west.
In Mykolayiv, regional military administration chief Vitaliy Kim said in a social media post that Russian missile launches had been reported.
“The occupiers have decided to try to spoil the day for us,” he said.
In Kherson, Yaroslav Yanushevich, head of Ukraine’s regional military administration, said Russian shelling in a nearby village had “severely” injured a 13-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl, a brother and sister.
Reports from the field from either side could not immediately be independently verified.
Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address on December 30 that Russia hasn’t abandoned plans to capture all of Donetsk, aiming to accomplish the goal by New Year’s Day. Zelenskiy also warned Ukrainians there could be another widespread air assault.
Separately, the sides announced a new prisoner swap on December 31.
Dmytro Lubinets, the Ukrainian parliament’s human rights commissioner, said that “140 Ukrainians released from Russian captivity will celebrate the New Year and Christmas holidays at home,” listing the soldiers as 132 men and eight women.
Among those released, he said, were “defenders of Mariupol and Snake Island” and others captured near Bakhmut, the site of intense fighting over recent weeks.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said 82 of its soldiers had been handed over by Ukraine.