Nato chief calls for more support for Ukraine as Russia launches more missile strikes

Air raid sirens wail for hours as the war enters its 11th month

Matt Mathers
Sunday 01 January 2023 18:27 GMT
Russian missiles fly over Kyiv as hundreds hit Ukraine

Western countries need to “ramp up” their military support to Ukraine – and be prepared to provide long-term assistance – Nato’s secretary general has said, as Russia began the new year with fresh missile attacks on Kyiv and other cities.

“Russia has shown no sign of giving up its overall goal of taking control over Ukraine,” Jens Stoltenberg said. “The Ukrainian forces have had the momentum for several months but we also know that Russia has mobilised many more forces. Many of them are now training.

“All that indicates that they are prepared to continue the war and also potentially try to launch a new offensive,” Mr Stoltenberg told BBC Radio 4. “It is a core responsibility for Nato to ensure that we have the stocks, the supplies, the weapons in place to ensure our own deterrence and defence, but also to be able to continue to provide support to Ukraine for the long haul.”

“We need to provide support to Ukraine now, including military support, because that’s the only way to convince Russia that they have to sit down and negotiate in good faith and respect Ukraine as a sovereign independent nation in Europe,” Mr Stoltenberg added.

In Ukraine, the country’s Air Force command said it had destroyed 45 Iranian-made Shahed drones – 32 of them in the early hours of Sunday and 13 late on Saturday.

Air raid sirens wailed for hours and explosions filled the sky around Kyiv. The renewed assault began the year just as Russian president Vladimir Putin’s forces ended it, with attacks branded “cowardly” by US officials.

A serviceman collects fragments of a missile in a crater left by a Russian strike in front of a residential building in Kyiv on New Year’s Eve (AFP via Getty)

The US ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, said: “Russia coldly and cowardly attacked Ukraine in the early hours of the new year. But Putin still does not seem to understand that Ukrainians are made of iron.”

Andriy Nebytov, chief of Kyiv’s police, posted a photo on his Telegram messaging app, reportedly of a piece of drone used in the attack on the capital with a handwritten sign on it in Russian saying “Happy New Year”.

“These wreckage are not at the front, where fierce battles are taking place, they are here, on a sports grounds, where children play,” Mr Nebytov said.

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said in a statement that at least one person had been killed and another eight wounded in multiple explosions on Saturday (Getty)

The latest attacks had damaged infrastructure in Sumy, in the northeast of the country, Khmelnytskyi in the west and Zaporizhzhia and Kherson in the southeast and south, the general staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said.

“Let the day be quiet,” Valentyn Reznichenko, governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region, said early on Sunday, after reporting heavy shelling of several communities in the region overnight, which left one person wounded.

Grid operator Ukrenergo said on Sunday the past day had been “difficult” for its workers but the electricity situation was “under control” and emergency outages were not being implemented.

A glow from an explosion is seen over Kyiv’s skyline during a Russian drone strike on 1 January (Reuters)

Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of the southern Russian region of Belgorod bordering Ukraine, said that overnight shelling of the outskirts of Shebekino town had damaged houses but there were no casualties.

Russian media also reported multiple Ukrainian attacks on Moscow-controlled parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions – areas seen by the international community as being illegally seized from Ukraine – with local officials saying that at least nine people were wounded.

Russia’s RIA state news agency cited a local doctor as saying six people were killed when a hospital in Donetsk was attacked on Saturday. Proxy authorities in Donetsk also said one person had been killed by Ukrainian shelling. There was no immediate response from Kyiv, which rarely comments on attacks inside Russian-controlled territories in Ukraine.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife Olena Zelenska in their new year message to Ukraine (Anadolu Agency via Getty)

Russian forces have been engaged for months in fierce fighting in the east and south of Ukraine, trying to defend the lands Moscow proclaimed it annexed in September and which make up the broader Ukrainian industrial Donbas region.

The missile assault over Ukraine on Sunday came following a defiant and combative New Year’s Eve message by Mr Putin. The Russian president used his address to accuse the West of using Ukraine to “destroy” his country as he attempted to rally public support for the Russian invasion.

Some Ukraine soldiers are able to toast the new year while separated from their families by the war (Reuters)

In his own new year message, Ukraine’s President Zelensky added that his only wish for all Ukrainians for 2023 was victory – and resolved to stay the course while the country fights for it.

“This year has struck our hearts. We’ve cried out all the tears. We’ve shouted all the prayers,” he said. “We fight and will continue to fight. For the sake of the key word: victory.”

In Kyiv on Sunday, Evheniya Shulzhenko said the “really powerful” end-of-year speech by Mr Zelensky had made her proud to be Ukrainian. “Of course it was hard to celebrate fully because we understand that our soldiers can’t be with their families,” she said while sitting with her husband on a park bench overlooking the city.

She recently moved to Kyiv after living in Bakhmut and Kharkiv, two cities that have experienced some of the heaviest fighting of the war.

Meanwhile, the prosecutor who led the case against Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic has called for Mr Putin to be tried for war crimes. Sir Geoffrey Nice, who worked with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, told BBC Radio 4 that the case against the Russian leader “couldn’t be clearer”.

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