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Ukraine updates: Zelenskyy condemns New Year drone attacks

January 2, 2023

Four people were killed and dozens injured when Russia launched drone strikes on several Ukrainian cities shortly after the arrival of 2023. DW rounds up the latest.

A man and child stand near a pile of broken windows by a Russian missile attack in Kyiv, Ukraine on January 01, 2023
Russia launched drone strikes on several Ukrainian cities within minutes of midnight on New Year's DayImage: Oleksii Chumachenko/AA/picture alliance

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday denounced Russian "terrorists" for launching drone attacks on his country barely an hour into the new year.

In a video message, Zelenskyy said 45 Iranian-made explosive drones were shot down as the country welcomed 2023 and thanked the Ukrainian air force and air defense ground forces for their efforts.

Air raid sirens sounded in the capital, Kyiv, and other cities shortly after midnight on New Year's Day, followed by a barrage of missiles.

Four people were killed and dozens more were injured, officials said.

Ukraine's largest university reported significant damage to its buildings, along with two schools.

Ukrainian officials alleged Moscow was deliberately targeting civilians along with critical infrastructure to destroy morale during the long winter months.

Russia said it was targeting Ukraine's drone production facilities.

Zelenskyy, meanwhile, praised his citizens' "sense of unity, of authenticity, of life itself.''

The Russian military is palpably afraid, Zelenskyy said. "And they are right to be afraid because they will lose." 

The president said Russia "will not take away a single year from Ukraine. They will not take away our independence. We will not give them anything."

NYE attacks on Ukraine: DW's Emma Chaze in Kyiv

Here are the other main headlines from the war in Ukraine on Sunday, January 1:

Russia launches new drone attack in Kyiv region, southern Ukraine

The Kyiv region was under threat of drone attacks late on Sunday, its governor said, as air raid sirens sounded across the capital and eastern Ukraine.

"Air raid alert has been announced in the region," Oleksiy Kuleba, the governor, said on the Telegram messaging app.

"There is a threat of a Shahed (Iranian-made drones) attack," he added.

Earlier Sunday, the Russian military launched a new aerial attack on targets near Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine, using so-called kamikaze drones, state news agency Ukrinform reported.

The agency said two groups of Iranian-made Shahid drones were spotted.

"Air alert, two groups of mopeds," regional military administration chief Vitali Kim wrote in a public message on Telegram. 

The drones are now called mopeds by Ukrainians because of the sound of their engines.

Ukraine says it has inflicted heavy losses on Russians in Bakhmut

The Ukrainian military claims to have inflicted heavy losses on Russian troops in Bakhmut, the small city in eastern Ukraine that has been the scene of fierce battles for months.

Around 170 Russian soldiers were killed in fighting for control of the bombed-out city on Saturday, the spokesman of the Eastern Group of the Armed Forces, Serhiy Cherevaty, said on Sunday evening.

Cherevaty described it as an "assembly line of death" for the Russian occupiers and said at least 200 more Russians were wounded.

Moscow has not commented and battlefield accounts in the 10-month-old war are often impossible to immediately confirm. 

Russian forces have relentlessly sought to capture Bakhmut, which has become a symbolic prize for Moscow even though analysts say it has only modest strategic value.

Germany takes over leadership of NATO's 'spearhead force'

NATO's Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) was put in the hands of Germany's Bundeswehr from the start of the new year, DPA news agency reported.

The VJTF was established in reaction to the Russian annexation of Crimea at a NATO summit in Wales in September 2014. 

Germany's military now contributes about 8,000 soldiers of the VJTF's total of 11,500.

As the force with the highest readiness for short-term deployments, the VJTF must be prepared for deployment to any location within 48 to 72 hours. 

NATO describes its "spearhead force," whose leadership changes annually, as an essential contribution to deterrence and defense in Europe.

"While Russia's illegal war in Ukraine continues to threaten peace and security in Europe, there must be no doubt about NATO's determination to protect and defend every inch of the alliance's territory," said NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu in Brussels before the turn of the year. 

The other eight NATO countries participating in the multinational forces this year are Belgium, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Slovenia.

New Year's Day babies in war-torn Ukraine

Kyiv resident faces jail for lighting fireworks

A 47-year-old Kyiv resident could be jailed for up to 5 years after putting on a personal New Year fireworks display in the Ukrainian capital despite a nighttime curfew.

Residents informed the police, who arrived at his flat, confiscated a stockpile of fireworks and detained the man for breach of the peace.

"He now faces five years of imprisonment," Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko wrote in a public message on Telegram.

City authorities had issued the stay-at-home order over fears that Russia would use the celebration to strike Ukrainian cities.

Shortly after the illegal fireworks, an air alert was sounded in Kyiv as Russia launched a wave of so-called kamikaze drones at the capital.

mm/wd (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)