Russian drones attack critical infrastructure in and around Kyiv

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  • Several waves of drones attack Kyiv, officials
  • Ukraine says shot down 20 aerial objects above Kyiv
  • Stern Putin New Year speech signals no let-up
  • Zelenskiy says Ukraine stands united
  • New Year tough in the Ukrainian frontline trenches

By Pavel Polityuk and Herbert Villarraga

KYIV/DONETSK PROVINCE FRONT LINE, Ukraine, Jan 2 (Reuters) – Russian drones targeted infrastructure in Ukraine’s capital and surrounding areas on Monday, damaging energy facilities and causing some power outages, officials said, as Russia extended its bombardment into the second day of 2023.

Ukrainian forces shot down 45 Iranian-made Shahed drones fired by Russia on the first night of the year, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday, praising Ukrainians for showing gratitude to the troops and one another.

“Drones, missiles, everything else will not help them,” he said of the Russians. “Because we stand united. They are united only by fear.”

But in a stern New Year’s speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin signalled no let-up in his assault on Ukraine.

By 3 a.m. (0100 GMT), Ukraine’s air defence systems destroyed 20 air objects above Kyiv, its military administration said.

“It is loud in the region and in the capital: night drone attacks,” Kyiv Governor Oleksiy Kuleba said.

“Russians launched several waves of Shahed drones. Targeting critical infrastructure facilities. Air defence is at work,” he said on the Telegram messaging app.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the strikes had knocked out some power and heating.

“There are emergency power outages in the city,” he said on the Telegram messaging app.

Earlier, he said one person was wounded by debris from a destroyed drone that hit a road and damaged a building in a northeastern district of the capital.

Reuters was not able to independently verify the information.

The regional military command in Ukraine’s east said air defence systems destroyed nine of the Iranian-made drones over the Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhzhia regions by the early hours of Monday.

NEW YEAR IN THE TRENCHES

On Twitter, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, said, “Russia coldly and cowardly attacked Ukraine in the early hours of the New Year. But Putin still does not seem to understand that Ukrainians are made of iron.”

Troops toasted the New Year on the front line in Ukraine’s eastern province of Donetsk. One soldier, Pavlo Pryzhehodskiy, 27, played a song he had written on a guitar after 12 of his comrades were killed in a single night.

“It is sad that instead of meeting friends, celebrating and giving gifts to one another, people were forced to seek shelter, some were killed,” he told Reuters.

“It is a huge tragedy that cannot ever be forgiven. That is why the New Year is sad.”

In a nearby trench, soldier Oleh Zahrodskiy, 49, said he had volunteered after his son was called up as a reservist. Now, his son is in hospital, fighting for his life with a brain injury, while his father mans the front.

“It is very tough now,” he said, holding back tears.

‘HAPPY NEW YEAR’

Kyiv’s police chief, Andrii Nebytov, posted a photo on the Telegram app, showing what was described as a piece of a drone used in an attack on the capital, with a handwritten sign on it in Russian reading “Happy New Year”.

“This wreckage is not at the front, where fierce battles are taking place, this is here, on a sports grounds, where children play,” Nebytov said.

Russia has flattened Ukrainian cities and killed thousands of civilians since Putin ordered his invasion in February, saying Ukraine was an artificial state whose pro-Western outlook threatened Russia’s security.

Russia, which denies targeting civilians, has since claimed to have annexed about a fifth of Ukraine.

Ukraine has fought back with Western military support, driving Russian forces from more than half the territory they seized. In recent weeks, the front lines have been largely static, with thousands of soldiers dying in intense warfare.

Russia says its aerial strikes aim to reduce Ukraine’s ability to fight; Kyiv says they have no military purpose and are intended to hurt civilians, a war crime.

“The main thing is the fate of Russia,” Putin said in a New Year’s Eve speech to a group dressed in military uniform, instead of the event’s normal backdrop of the Kremlin walls.

“Defence of the fatherland is our sacred duty to our ancestors and descendants. Moral, historical righteousness is on our side.”

A Ukrainian drone attack damaged a power facility in Russia’s Bryansk region bordering Ukraine, its governor said on Monday, adding that there were no casualties.

Russia said last week that it shot down a Ukrainian drone close to one of long-range bomber bases deep inside its territory and that three air force personnel had been killed.

Reuters was not able to independently verify the report.

Ukrainian servicemen on their position near the city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk area, Ukraine. EPA-EFE/GEORGE IVANCHENKO

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