Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of “following the devil” and waging a war to ensure that its President Vladimir Putin remains in power “until the end of his life.”
Zelensky switched to speaking Russian in his nightly address on Saturday to send a message to the Kremlin and Russian citizens, as Moscow launched a series of deadly strikes that swept several regions of Ukraine ahead of New Year.
“All this war that you are waging, you – Russia, it is not the war with NATO, as your propagandists lie,” Zelensky said. “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.
Zelensky said “Russian leader is hiding behind the troops, behind missiles, behind the walls of his residences and palaces” and behind his people. “He hides behind you and burns your country and your future. No one will ever forgive you for terror,” Zelensky emphasized.
Zelensky said “most of the Russian missiles intercepted by air defense forces.”
“If it were not for air defense, the number of casualties would have been different. Much bigger,” he stressed. “And this is yet another proof for the world that support for Ukraine must be increased.”
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal earlier said Moscow wants to cause darkness and leave the country “in the dark for the New Year.”
Moscow intends to “intimidate, leave us in the dark for the new year, cause as much damage to civilian infrastructure as possible,” Shmyhal said on Telegram.
“There are attacks on civilian infrastructure in different regions of our country. Residential buildings, hotel, (a) shop, place for festivals were damaged. There are dead and injured,” he wrote.
“Russians want to intimidate, leave us in the dark for the New Year, cause as much damage to civilian infrastructure as possible.”
Russian shelling in recent weeks targeting critical infrastructure across Ukraine has left much of the country without access to heat and power, amid a harsh winter season.
Out of the 20 injured in the capital Kyiv, 14 were hospitalized, while six others were given medical care on the spot, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Telegram.
Several school buildings in the capital suffered severe damage from the explosions, the mayor added.
Air raid sirens were activated following the attacks in Kyiv, where air defenses later repelled 45 Iranian drones.
“On the night of January 1, 2023, the Russian invaders attacked Ukraine with Iranian-made kamikaze drones Shahed-131/136,” the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a statement.
“As a result of combat work by the air defense of the Air Force in cooperation with the anti-aircraft defense of other components of the Defense Forces of Ukraine, 45 attack UAVs were destroyed. 13 in 2022 and 32 in 2023.
“They failed to spoil the holiday for the Ukrainians.”
Emergency services were sent to the scene but according to preliminary information there were no casualties.
Further east in the Donetsk, Kharkiv and Chernihiv regions, Russian strikes killed at least six people.
Three people died and three more were wounded in the Donetsk region, Deputy Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Kyrylo Tymoshenko said on Telegram.
One person was wounded in the Zaporizhzhia region. Two were killed and one wounded in the Kharkiv region. Two people were wounded in the Kherson region, while one died in the Chernihiv region.
It came after Russia launched five missiles and 29 air strikes on Friday, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said Saturday.
“26 of the enemy’s air strikes were on civilian infrastructure. In particular, the occupants used 10 Shahed-136 UAVs, but all of them were shot down. In addition, the enemy made 80 attacks from multiple rocket launchers, civilian settlements were also hit,” the General Staff said in its latest operational update.
It said that Russia “continues to conduct offensive actions at the Lyman and Bakhmut directions and is trying to improve the tactical situation at the Kupiansk and Avdiivka directions.”
Russian forces fired on several towns and villages, including in Lyman, in the direction of Bakhmut, in the areas of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.