A decree by Russian President Vladimir Putin brings 137,000 additional soldiers into the Ukraine war. As heavy fighting continues over Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, Kyiv denounces that Russia is waging a “war to kill.” Also on New Year Ukraine is attacked with drones. What happened today in the war.
With the massive airstrikes against a number of Ukrainian cities on New Year’s Eve, Russia has switched to a new strategy, according to Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Mykhailo Podoliak. “Russia has no more military targets,” Podoliak tweeted on Sunday. “It (Russia) is trying to kill as many civilians as possible and destroy as many civilian objects as possible. A war of killing.”
The Russian military launched a wave of so-called kamikaze drones against several Ukrainian cities on New Year’s Eve. According to the Ukrainian military leadership, the Iranian-made Shahed-type drones were all shot down before they reached their targets. Among other things, the drones were aimed at Kyiv and the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.
Also on Sunday evening, the Russian military launched new attacks with so-called kamikaze drones against targets in Ukraine. Two groups of Iranian-made Shahed drones were sighted near Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine, the state news agency Ukrinform reported. “Air alert, two groups of mopeds,” regional military administrator Vitali Kim wrote on Telegram. Because of their engine noise, the drones are now called “mopeds” by the Ukrainian population. Air alert was sounded throughout the south of the country.
In the course of heavy fighting for the eastern Ukrainian frontline town of Bakhmut, Russian troops have suffered heavy losses, according to Ukrainian accounts. As the spokesman for the Ukrainian Army Group East, Serhiy Tscherevatyj, announced on Sunday, around 170 Russian soldiers had been killed the day before alone. Another 200 Russians were wounded trying to attack the city. Cherevatyj spoke of an “assembly line of death” for the attackers. The information on the number of victims could not initially be independently verified.
Bakhmut is considered the so-called cornerstone of the Ukrainian front lines in the east of the country. For the Russian armed forces, the city is a prestige object that they want to conquer at any cost. The Russian attacks are led by members of the notorious Wagner mercenary group. The Russian side also regularly reports high numbers of casualties among the ranks of the Ukrainian opponents.
Despite a clear ban on fireworks in Ukraine, a 47-year-old detonated rockets in the capital Kyiv on New Year’s Eve and is now facing a long prison sentence. “Now he faces five years in prison,” wrote Mayor Vitali Klitschko on Telegram on Sunday.
Local residents had informed the police about the banned fireworks. The officers arrested the man and confiscated a whole warehouse of pyrotechnic products in his apartment. The 47-year-old is now being charged with hooliganism, the police said.
In Ukraine, there is a general ban on fireworks during the state of war. Shortly after the illegal fireworks, an air alert was sounded in Kyiv because Russia had launched a wave of so-called kamikaze drones on the Ukrainian capital.
More than ten months after the start of Moscow’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the start of the new year in Russia will see the number of military personnel increase by 137,000. A corresponding decree on the increase to around 1.15 million contract soldiers and conscripts ordered by Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin in August officially came into force on Sunday. According to this, the army strength should total more than two million people. The rest of the military personnel are civilian personnel, including some administrative employees.
In September, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said new units were being created. The minister accused the western states, led by the USA, of taking a course against Russia and its allies; he justified the increase in the number of soldiers. “The NATO bloc is moving closer to the Russian borders,” Shoigu said.
Since the start of the war against Ukraine ordered by Putin on February 24, the Russian army has repeatedly had to contend with major personnel problems. The increase in the number of military personnel is now intended to remedy the situation. In addition, Putin had called up around 300,000 reservists for a partial mobilization – accompanied by protests in the population and a mass flight of men abroad. The people in Russia fear that Putin could decide on further mobilization in order to still win his war in Ukraine, which has been overshadowed by many defeats.
After the turn of the year, the Russian army continued to attack with “kamikaze drones”, and air raid alarms were raised in southern and eastern Ukraine and in Kyiv. There were several explosions in the capital. No major damage or casualties were initially known.
Official Ukrainian sources stated that Russian forces fired more than 20 cruise missiles from the air. The Ukrainian air defenses are said to have shot down 12 of them, reports the “Institute for the study of war”. In addition, Russia deployed ten Shahed-136 drones and one Orlan-10 surveillance drone, all of which Ukrainian forces are said to have shot down.
“The Russian armed forces are likely to be depleting their stockpiles of artillery ammunition and will therefore find it difficult to maintain their current pace of operations in certain sections of the front line in Ukraine,” report military experts from the Institute for the Study of War.
According to information from the head of the Ukrainian main military intelligence service, Kyrylo Budanov, the artillery situation is expected to worsen further by March 2023. Budanov explained that the Russian armed forces have even “removed” artillery ammunition from Belarusian military storage facilities to support their operations in Ukraine. The British Ministry of Defense also confirms the Russian lack of weapons and believes that the Russian army no longer has the necessary stocks of artillery ammunition to continue to guarantee the high level of weaponry.
In Russian, Zelenskyy declared in his speech that the neighboring country is not at war with the whole of NATO, “as your propagandists lie.” The war also does not serve any historically significant goals remains in power at the end of life,” he said, referring to Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin. “And what’s left of all of you, citizens of Russia, is none of his business.”
Putin wants to show that he leads the military and has its backing. “But he’s just hiding,” Zelenskyj said. “He hides behind the military, behind rockets, behind the walls of his residences and palaces, he hides behind you and burns your country and your future.” No one will ever forgive Russia for terror, Zelensky said. “Nobody in the world will forgive you for that. Ukraine will never forgive you.”
In another video message, Zelenskyy later said: “Ukraine has not lost its sons and daughters – they were taken away by murderers.” The country had been invaded by invaders. “The world has not lost peace – Russia has destroyed it.”
Russia’s army invaded Ukraine on February 24 – under the pretext of wanting to “denazify and demilitarize” the neighboring country. Tens of thousands of people have lost their lives in the war, which is not allowed to be called that in Russia and, even after more than ten months, is officially known as a “special military operation”. There are no precise figures on this from an independent source.
Just before the turn of the year, “kamikaze drones” from Russia, designed to crash at targets at high speed, were reported flying into Ukraine. Air alerts were raised for the cities of Odessa and Mykolaiv in the south and Dnipro in the center of the country, Unian agency reported. The alarm was later extended to eastern Ukraine.
Mykolayiv military administrator Vitali Kim reported two formations of drones sighted in his area. The air defense opened fire on the Iranian-made Shahed drones. Even after the turn of the year there was an air raid alarm again.
In a short New Year’s Eve message, President Zelenskyj wished his compatriots a Happy New Year, as he called it. “Wish a miracle today? The Ukrainians created it a long time ago,” Zelenskyy said. He also published a photo of himself and his wife Olena in front of a modestly decorated Christmas tree on Instagram. There were other political undertones in his New Year’s message.
“Want real friends? We’ve already found out for sure who they are,” Zelenskyy said, apparently referring to Ukraine’s supporters in the war against Russia. With a touch of irony and a reference to the repeated attacks on the Ukrainian power grid, he explained: “Do you want light? It is in each of us, even when there is no electricity.”
Russia’s President Putin had his wartime New Year’s speech recorded this time surrounded by soldiers. “It has been a year of difficult, necessary decisions, important steps towards maintaining Russia’s full sovereignty and with a tremendous consolidation in our society,” Putin said in the speech broadcast on Saturday.
At the same time he accused the West of “lying”. “Western elites have hypocritically assured all of us for years of their peaceful intentions, including solving the most serious conflict in Donbass,” Putin said. “The West lied about peace and is preparing for aggression. And today he’s not even ashamed to admit it openly.”
Despite the damage inflicted by Russian missile attacks, Ukrainians were able to welcome the New Year largely in the light. The energy suppliers had been instructed to give priority to supplying private households with electricity for the New Year celebrations. On Saturday, the supermarkets in Kyiv were very busy after the three-hour air raid alarm. Shortly before the festival, the residents of the capital stocked up on delicacies and the traditional sparkling wine.
Despite the holiday, the 11pm local time (10pm GMT) curfew in Kyiv and most areas has not been lifted. In more western areas such as Lviv (Lemberg), Chernivtsi (Chernowitz), Vinnytsia, Khmelnytskyi and Rivne, the curfew only applied from midnight. Only in the westernmost region of Zakarpattia, which borders Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland, was there no curfew. In general, there was a nationwide ban on fireworks.