Russia fired more than 20 cruise missiles at targets in Ukraine on Saturday, killing at least one person in the capital Kyiv and injuring more than a dozen in what one official described as “terror on New Year’s Eve”.
Moscow’s second major missile attack in three days badly damaged a hotel south of Kyiv’s centre and a residential building in another district. A Japanese journalist was among the wounded and taken to hospital, mayor Vitali Klitschko said.
Russia has been attacking vital infrastructure in Ukraine since October with barrages of missiles and drones, causing sweeping power blackouts and other outages for millions as the cold weather bites.
“This time, Russia’s mass missile attack is deliberately targeting residential areas, not even our energy infrastructure,” foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter after the attack.
“War criminal Putin ‘celebrates’ New Year by killing people,” Kuleba said, calling for Russia to be deprived of its permanent seat on the UN security council.
The attack was launched as Vladimir Putin said in his new year video message that his country is fighting in Ukraine to protect its “motherland”, and to secure “true independence”.
In the nine-minute message aired on Russian state television – the longest such address of his two-decade rule – Putin blamed the west for provoking the war and attempting to “weaken and split Russia”.
Standing in front of a group of men and women in military fatigues, Putin said: “It was a year that put a lot in its place … This year demonstrated that there is no higher power than love for one’s family and friends, loyalty to friends and comrades, devotion to one’s fatherland.”
In a speech dominated by Russia’s war in Ukraine, Putin lauded all the country’s servicemen fighting there as heroes.
The Russian defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, said earlier on Saturday that victory in Ukraine was inevitable. He admitted his country was facing difficulties in the 10-month war as it has been forced to retreat for several months.
“We meet the new year in a difficult military-political situation,” he said.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the office of Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said missiles had hit a hotel and a detached house.
The governor of the surrounding Kyiv region, Oleksiy Kuleba, had warned shortly beforehand of a possible incoming missile attack, and said air defences in the region were engaging targets.
“The terrorist country launched several waves of missiles. They are wishing us a happy new year. But we will persevere,” Kuleba wrote on Telegram in a separate post after explosions shook the capital.
Army chief Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said air defences shot down 12 incoming cruise missiles, including six around Kyiv region, five in Zhytomyrskiy region and one in Khmelnytskiy region.
The cruise missiles had been launched from Russian strategic bombers over the Caspian Sea hundreds of miles away and from land-based launchers, he said on Telegram.
Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets described the attack as “Terror on New Year’s Eve”.
As Putin was delivering his address, the Ukrainian capital was rocked by another wave of Russian attacks that killed at least one person, according to the city’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko.
“There are explosions in Kyiv!” he wrote on Telegram. “Stay in shelters!