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Russia ends the year by killing, wounding, displacing civilians

by Asami Terajima and Alexander Query and Igor Kossov December 31, 2022 8:43 PM 5 min read
A body in a bag lies on the roadside after Russian forces hit the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Dec. 31, 2022. (Mustafa Ciftci/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
This audio is created with AI assistance

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As Ukrainians were about to gather to celebrate New Year, hoping for a better year ahead, Russia went the extra mile to deprive people of even the slightest holiday mood.

A few kilometers from central Kyiv, multiple ambulances stood waiting.

In one ambulance, the crew was trying to calm down a yelling man with a slight hysterical snap in his voice.

An older woman looked to be on the verge of tears as she looked for her daughter, saying she didn't know where she was.

Down the hill, near Protsiv Yar, a big crater appeared to have been gouged into the path. The explosion appeared to have destroyed one of the two-story buildings in the area.

A nearby, taller residential building also appeared to have been struck by a fragment — several top-floor windows knocked out, the area around them charred black.

However, the lights were on in it and the neighboring buildings.

A neighbor, Victoria, who declined to provide her last name, said she heard that a man had been killed and a woman seriously injured. Earlier reports suggested that three people were affected at this location.

Locals who didn't decline to comment reported hearing different numbers of explosions.

Besides a strike, Victoria said she also heard multiple blasts that sounded like they were the result of air defense systems.

She was at home and took shelter in her hallway.

"I was crying, I was so scared," she said. "But now I'm okay. It's done, and we can't do anything about it now.

The strike killed any desire to celebrate the New Year within her. "I just hope we don't have a repeat at night or tomorrow. That would be the best."

Russia fires missiles at Ukrainian cities on New Year's Eve, killing at least 1, injuring 28

Russia launched yet another barrage of missiles, the ninth since Oct. 10, across Ukraine on Dec. 31, killing at least one person and wounding over 30, most of them in Kyiv, on New Year's Eve.

At least eight massive explosions were heard across Kyiv at around 2 p.m. while Ukrainians were preparing to celebrate the New Year despite the expected threat.

"A terrorist state will not receive forgiveness, and those who give orders for such strikes, who carry it out, will not receive forgiveness – to put it mildly," President Volodymyr Zelensky said following the attack.

Attempted murder near downtown Kyiv

The early winter dusk settling on the Alfavito in central Kyiv hardly hid the damages of the Russian missile that hit what used to be a four-star hotel.

Not much was left of the hotel's facade, while the building's corner was completely ripped off by the missile, injuring Wataru Sekita, a 36-year-old Japanese journalist staying there.

"We were expecting Russians to strike today," Natalia Bilus, a 46-year-old museum employee living near the hotel, told the Kyiv Independent.

"They're idiots, and they're cruel because they know how much the New Year is important to us."

The Alfavito hotel is near the Palace Ukraine concert hall in downtown Kyiv. In this landmark auditorium, families used to gather for a month-long celebration ahead of New Year.

The massive glass windows of the building were almost completely shattered by the blast.

It's a "very symbolic place," Bilus said.

"They destroy our buildings, memories, and warm emotions, but we're strong enough, we won't leave this place," she added. "We're prepared to defend Kyiv because we know they may come back."

State Emergency Service personnel gather at the scene of a missile attack, one of numerous on New Year’s Eve, in Kyiv on Dec. 31, 2022. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Bilus and her husband were talking to their daughter online when they heard a "massive bang." The blast shook the building's wall and its windows too.

"We saw some smoke, and we understood it fell nearby," Bilus said.

The broken, shattered glass glittering on the pavement was cracking under the swift sweeping of the city's cleaners team, determined to eliminate the aftermath of Russia's strike.

Despite the glass crackling under their steps, neighbors kept coming to a small, fully lit, and windowless grocery store to buy some of the products miraculously spared by the explosions.

In the neighborhood, incomprehension prevailed. Olha Chyslenko watched the scene with incredulity while her little girl, Anna, hid behind her legs.

"We were in a shelter when we felt the explosions twice, we all jumped at how loud it was, 200 meters from us," Chyslenko told the Kyiv Independent.

Hanna Starovska, 48, her neighbor, apologized in a crackling voice as her legs were still shaking from the shock of the explosion.

"It's the loudest since the beginning of the war," she said. "We were in our flat, we usually don't go to shelters, but I suppose we should start doing so."

"We don't understand why they hit here," Chyslenko added. "It's a hotel, there are no military objects here, the hotel is for artists from Ukraine Palace."

She lived in this "peaceful neighborhood" all her life, she said.

"For my daughter, it was very important if her toys were okay and if Santa comes today," Chyslenko said.

"We're very nervous, so we don't know if we'll celebrate anything," she admitted. "But he will come, for sure," she said with a pale smile.

Russia's deadly New Year's Eve

According to Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the Air Force shot down 12 of more than 20 cruise missiles fired by Russia.

The Air Force shot down 6 Russian missiles in Kyiv Oblast, five in the northern Zhytomyr Oblast, and one in the western Khmelnytskyi Oblast.

The deadliest attack was witnessed in Kyiv, where one person was killed and 21 were injured. At least six people were wounded in Mykolaiv, two in Zaporizhzhia, and two more in Khmelnytskyi.

"This whole war that you are waging, Russia, it is not with NATO, as your propagandists lie, it is not for something historical, it is for one person to remain in power until the end of his life," Zelensky said on New Year's Eve following the attack.

"No one will forgive," he added.

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