Russian strikes intensify as Ukrainians return for vacation

Multiple blasts rocked Kyiv and other areas of Ukraine on Saturday, killing at least one person and injuring 14 others, a sign the pace of Russian attacks had picked up ahead of the New Year.

However, some Ukrainians braved the danger to return to the country to meet up with their families over the holiday.

Ukrainian officials claimed Russia is now deliberately targeting civilians to create a climate of fear to end the year on a bleak note and usher in a bloody 2023.

First Lady Olena Zelenska expressed outrage that such massive rocket attacks could take place just before New Year’s Eve celebrations.

“Ruining other people’s lives is a disgusting habit of our neighbors,” she said.

The blasts also came at an unusually accelerated pace that alerted officials just 36 hours after Russia fired a volley of missiles to damage energy infrastructure facilities on Thursday.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stressed the harsh civilian toll of this latest offensive – that “this time, Russia’s massive missile attack is deliberately targeting residential areas, not even energy infrastructure.”

The deadly explosion in the Ukrainian capital occurred between the multi-storey residential buildings of the Solomianskyi district.

An AP photographer at the scene of the blasts saw the body of a dead woman as her husband and son stood nearby. An elderly woman was among the injured who were taken to the hospital. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said two schools were also damaged, including a kindergarten.

Various residential buildings and civilian infrastructure were damaged in massive nationwide attacks in Kyiv on Saturday afternoon. A senior official in the President’s office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, released photos and videos of a partially collapsed six-storey hotel in Kyiv. Klitschko said a Japanese journalist was among those injured in the capital.

Russia fired 20 cruise missiles over Ukraine on Saturday afternoon, of which Ukrainian forces shot down 12, according to Ukraine’s military chief general. Valerii Saluzhnyi.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy released a video address shortly after Russia fired New Year’s Eve cruise missiles over Ukraine, in which he said Russian President Vladimir Putin was “hiding behind the military, behind missiles, behind the walls of his residences and palaces.” . Addressing the Russians, he added: “Nobody in the world will forgive you for that. Ukraine will not forgive you.”

At least four civilians were injured in Khmelnytskyi province in western Ukraine, according to the regional governor. Serhii Hamalii. Six people were injured in the southern region of Mykolaiv.

Mykolaiv Gov. Vitalii Kim said the Russians are attacking civilians more directly than just through attacks on infrastructure as in the past.

“In many cities, residential areas, hotels, only streets and garages are affected,” he wrote on Telegram.

Two houses were destroyed and about eight damaged as a result of a rocket attack in the Zaporizhia region. Four people were also injured, including a pregnant woman and a 14-year-old girl, the regional governor said. Oleksandr Staruch.

Even as the 10-month war in Russia continues with no end in sight, for some families the New Year is still a chance to reunite after months of separation, albeit for a short time.

On Saturday morning at Kiev Central Station, Mykyta, still in his uniform, clutched a bouquet of pink roses as he awaited the arrival of his wife Valeriia from Poland on platform 9. He hadn’t seen her in six months.

“It was really tough waiting so long,” he told The Associated Press after hugging and kissing Valeriia.

Nearby, another soldier, Vasyl Khomko, 42, joyfully met his daughter Yana and his wife Galyna, who are living in Slovakia because of the war but have returned to Kyiv to spend New Year’s Eve together.

As early as February, fathers, husbands and sons were forced to stay behind while their wives, mothers and daughters with young children boarded trains to seek safety outside the country. Scenes of tearful farewells burned on television screens and newspaper front pages around the world.

But on the last day of the year, marked by brutal war, many returned to the capital to spend New Year’s Eve with loved ones, despite the ongoing Russian attacks.

As Russian attacks continue to target power supplies, leaving millions without power, no major celebrations are expected and a curfew will be in place when the clock chimes in the New Year. But for most Ukrainians, being with their families is a luxury.

Valeriia initially sought refuge from the conflict in Spain, but later moved to Poland. When asked what her New Year’s plans were, she simply replied, “Just to be together.”

The couple declined to provide his family name for security reasons, as Mykyta has fought on the front lines in both southern and eastern Ukraine.

Another young couple reunited on platform 8. University student Arseniia Kolomiiets, 23, lives in Italy. Although she longed to see her boyfriend Daniel Liashchenko in Kyiv, Kolomiiets feared Russian missile and drone strikes.

“He was like, ‘Please come! Please come! Please come!’” she recalled. “I’ve decided that (being scared) is part, but being with loved ones over the holidays is the most important part. So I overcame my fear and here I am now.”

Despite having no electricity at home, Liashchenko said they are looking forward to welcoming in 2023 together with his family and their cat.

Natalya Kontonenko came from Finland. It was the first time she had seen her brother Serhii Kontonenko since the full-scale invasion began on February 24. Serhii and other relatives traveled from Mykolayiv to Kyiv to meet Natalya.

“We don’t worry about the power because we’re together and I think that’s the most important thing,” he said.

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