Russian shelling kills 4 as Ukraine prepares to observe Christmas on Dec. 25 for the first time

Russian shelling in southern Ukraine’s Kherson region has killed four people as Ukraine prepares to officially celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25 instead of Jan. 7

Via AP news wire
Sunday 24 December 2023 18:21 GMT

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Russian shelling in southern Ukraine’s Kherson region killed four people Sunday, including an 87-year-old man and his 81-year-old wife who died after a strike on their apartment building.

The barrage injured nine other people, including a 15-year-old, sparked fires in homes and at a private medical facility, and set a local gas pipeline alight, the head of the regional military administration, Oleksandr Prokudin, said.

“There are no holidays for the enemy,” Andrii Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian president’s office, wrote on social media, commenting on the Kherson attack. “They do not exist for us as long as the enemy kills our people and remains on our land.”

The shelling across Kherson reached the center of the region's capital city of the same name. The assault took place as Ukraine prepared to officially celebrate Christmas for the first time on Dec. 25, having previously marked the date on Jan. 7.

Some Orthodox Ukrainians observed Christmas on Dec. 25 last year in response to Russia's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. The Russian Orthodox Church observes the birth of Jesus on Jan. 7.

The cathedral in the Monastery of the Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Kyiv, held its Christmas celebration on Jan. 7 of this year, but the service was held in the Ukrainian language for the first time in the 31 years of Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed legislation in July moving the public Christmas Day holiday to Dec. 25. although one of Ukraine’s two competing Orthodox church organization's is sticking with the January date dictated by the Julian calendar. To mark Christmas Eve on Dec. 24, Zelenskyy addressed the nation in a video filmed in front of the floodlit St. Sophia Cathedral in central Kyiv.

He reassured Ukrainians fighting against Russia’s full-scale invasion of the country that “step by step, day by day, the darkness is losing.”

“Today, this is our common goal, our common dream. And this is precisely what our common prayer is for today. For our freedom. For our victory. For our Ukraine," Zelenskyy said.

Kherson was not the only region of Ukraine to come under attack Sunday. Russian forces launched 15 drone strikes overnight, and 14 of the Iranian-made Shahed drones were destroyed over the Mykolaiv, Kirovohrad, Zaporizhzhya, Dnipropetrovsk, and Khmelnytskyi regions, the Ukrainian air force reported.

Meanwhile, two people were wounded during the Russian shelling of 20 towns and villages across northern Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said.

In Russia, a man was injured in the Bryansk region after a village close to the Ukrainian border came under fire, the region’s governor, Alexander Bogomaz, said.

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Follow AP's coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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