“Boom, happy new year.” A Russian soldier wrote this sentence on one of the bomb drones that were fired at kyiv early Sunday morning. The fuselage of the drone, which fell down on a soccer field, was shared on social networks by the police in the Ukrainian capital. The Kremlin lived up to the script and welcomed 2023 with large-scale attacks on the invaded country, lashing out at kyiv. Thirty-five drones and cruise missiles arrived in the city between the afternoon of December 31 and the early morning of January 1. Throughout the country, the number exceeded fifty.
While in Moscow Russian President Vladimir Putin called for brotherhood among the “historical territories of Russia” in his New Year’s speech, his missiles and drones were preparing for a night of terror over kyiv. In 12 hours, between 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, the explosions were constant over the capital. Of the 35 Shahed missiles and drones fired at the city, 32 were shot down by anti-aircraft batteries, according to the Ukrainian Air Force. kyiv’s main protection since last November is the Nasams surface-to-air missile system, produced by the United States and Norway. Washington committed last October to supply eight Nasams batteries to Ukraine, two of which are already operational.
All the drones that arrived in the capital at dawn were cancelled, according to the Ukrainian Air Force. Not so with the dozen long-range Kalibr missiles that were fired Saturday afternoon from Russian territory and from the Black Sea. Three of them hit civilian targets, causing the death of one man and injuring around twenty others, including a Japanese journalist from the daily Asahi Shimbun.
EL PAÍS visited a downtown hotel that was partially destroyed by a Kalibr. The building, which was empty, adjoins the Ukrainian National Palace of Arts, one of the city’s main venues for concerts and plays. The palace also suffered damage, as well as a school on the same block. This newspaper could not identify any nearby military objective, although the authorities prevented photographing a factory located in front of the hotel, the possible Russian objective. Officials from the Ukrainian Prosecutor’s Office for the investigation of war crimes appeared at the hotel.
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During the afternoon of the 31st, the provinces of Kherson, Zaporizhia and Mykolaiv were also attacked. In the first two, three children were injured. During Sunday, the Russian bombardments were especially bloody in Kherson, where the southern front of the war is located, and in the province of Sumi, near the border with Russia.
Putin justified the invasion in his speech as a defense of Russian sovereignty against a “neo-Nazi” government in Ukraine. Russian propaganda has claimed since 2014, when the pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich was overthrown in the Maidan revolt, that the Ukrainian elites are fascists. “Today we are fighting to protect our people and our historical territories in the new regions of the Russian Federation,” Putin said: “Together, we are building and creating.” The Russian president was referring to the unilaterally annexed Ukrainian provinces: Crimea, in 2014, and in 2022, part of Kherson, Zaporizhia, Donetsk and Lugansk.
The bombings contrasted with Putin’s positive words to congratulate the Russians on the new year: “Our country has always celebrated the beginning of the new year, even in difficult times. It has always been everyone’s favorite holiday, and it has a magical power to bring out the best in people, to highlight the importance of traditional family values, the energy of goodwill, generosity and trust.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stressed in his New Year’s speech that his country will not only not be intimidated, but will fight until it liberates all the territory occupied by Russia. “This is the year  in which Ukraine changed the world. And the world discovered Ukraine. They told us to give up. We choose to counterattack. They told us that we had to make concessions and compromises. We will join the European Union and NATO”.
Prominent European leaders took advantage of the turn of the year to underline their support for Ukraine. French President Emmanuel Macron said his country will support kyiv “until victory.” “At the end of the year, Putin tries once again to plunge Ukraine into darkness with despicable acts,” wrote the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, “we are ready to help Ukraine, also in 2023.” The president of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, issued a video message next to the EU and Ukrainian flags to ensure that community support will continue.
The Russian attacks did not surprise the Ukrainians, who had already been warned by their government that the Kremlin would use these dates to demonstrate its power. But these forecasts contrast with the repeated messages since last summer, by kyiv and the intelligence services of NATO member states such as the United Kingdom or the United States, that the Russian arsenal of Russian cruise missiles is at a minimum. . The massive use of Shahed drones, provided by Iran and much cheaper in terms of production, would respond to the shortage of long-range rockets. Offensives like the one at the end of the year, and especially the campaign against the energy grid that began last October, contradict these estimates. Despite this, the deputy head of the intelligence services of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, Vadim Skibitski, ventured this Sunday in the state news that Russia only had cruise weapons left—Kalibr, Kh-101 and Kh-555 missiles, specifically — for two or three large-scale attacks. Skibitski admitted that the production of these rockets continues in Russia, although in smaller quantities, and that he can confirm this because in recent days they have recovered remains of missiles manufactured in the last quarter of 2022.
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