Ukraine sees deadly start to 2024 as Putin pledges to ramp up attacks

TOPSHOT - A policeman examines the damage outside an apartment building after the overnight Russian drones attack in Kharkiv, December 31, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Kyiv said on December 31, 2023, it destroyed 21 of 49 Iranian-made "Shahed" drones fired by Russia overnight, adding that six guided missiles had also targeted the northeastern city of Kharkiv. (Photo by SERGEY BOBOK / AFP) (Photo by SERGEY BOBOK/AFP via Getty Images)

Damage is seen outside an apartment building in Kharkiv on December 31 after overnight Russian drone attacks.Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty ImagesCNN — 

The first day of 2024 has officially been declared a day of mourning in Ukraine’s capital as the death toll continued to climb from Friday’s massive attacks by Russia and fresh assaults were launched overnight.

At least 27 people were killed and 30 injured in Kyiv in Friday’s attack, its city military administration reported Monday after more bodies were recovered from the rubble while search and rescue operations remained ongoing.

It was the biggest air attack on Ukraine since the beginning of its full-scale invasion, the Ukrainian military told CNN, with an unprecedented number of drones and missiles fired at targets across the country.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Moscow will ramp up strikes on Ukraine. He claimed Russian forces strike military targets with “high-precision weapons.”

A total of at least 52 people across Ukraine were killed in Friday’s attacks, which struck nationwide, with blasts reported in the capital Kyiv, as well as at a maternity hospital in the central city of Dnipro, the eastern city of Kharkiv, the southeastern port of Odesa and the western city of Lviv, far from the front lines.

A woman walks amid debris in a street hit by overnight shelling in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict in Donetsk, Russian-controlled Ukraine, January 1, 2024. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

A woman walks across debris in a street in Russian-controlled Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine, on January 1.Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

Ukrainians across the country on Sunday and into Monday started the new year with the sound of air alerts and fresh Russian attacks.

On Monday, Ukraine’s Air Force Command said Russia launched a record 90 drone attacks on New Year’s Eve. Overnight, 90 Shahed drones were launched in waves from Kursk and Primorsko-Akhtarsk in Russia and Crimea, and air alerts were declared in most regions of Ukraine along the route of the drones.

Ukraine’s Southern Defense Forces (SDF) said it shot down 51 Shahed drones overnight. These included 28 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) shot down in Odesa region, 14 in Mykolaiv, five in Vinnytsia, two in Dnipropetrovsk region, one in Kherson region, and one in Kirovohrad region, according to the SDF.

Firefighters work to extinguish a building damaged by a Russian drone strike in Kharkiv on Sunday.

Russia retaliates against Ukraine after 24 killed in border city

Earlier Monday, Ukraine’s Air Force Command said it had destroyed 87 out of 90 drone attacks launched across Ukraine on New Year’s Eve.

Russian shelling hours into the new year on Monday killed at least five people and wounded 22.

The southern city of Odesa came under an aerial assault from a UAV launched from the Black Sea that hit residential buildings early Monday morning, according to the Ukrainian Air Force. One person died and at least nine were injured in the attack, Oleh Kiper, the head of the Odesa region military administration said.

And the Russian-occupied Donetsk region, illegally annexed by Russia, was targeted by at least 15 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) overnight at the stroke of midnight local time, according to Vladimir Rogov, member of the Russian-installed Zaporizhzhia administration.

The shelling killed four people and wounded 13, according to Denis Pushilin, the Russian-installed head of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic.

Police officers stand near a high-rise building hit by a rocket after a missile attack in Odesa on December 29, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Russia launched drone and missile strikes across Ukraine on December 29, 2023, killing at least 12 people and wounding over 70 in one of the biggest air attacks of the war. (Photo by Oleksandr GIMANOV / AFP) (Photo by OLEKSANDR GIMANOV/AFP via Getty Images)

Police officers stand near a high-rise building hit by a rocket after a missile attack in Odesa, in southern Ukraine, on December 29.Oleksandr Gimanov/AFP/Getty Images

A girl uses her mobile phone while she sits on a swing at a compound of residential houses heavily damaged during a Russian drone strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Odesa, Ukraine January 1, 2024. REUTERS/Serhii Smolientsev

A girl uses her mobile phone while she sits on a swing at a compound of residential houses heavily damaged by a Russian drone strike in Odesa, on January 1.Serhii Smolientsev/Reuters

Putin said the new year attacks were in retaliation to Ukraine’s bombardment of the Russian border city of Belgorod on Saturday, which killed at least 25 people, according to the regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov.

In his New Year’s Eve speech Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky sought to rally the country, saying “we defeated the darkness,” as the war closes in on two years.

“Ukraine has become stronger. Ukrainians have become stronger… at the beginning of 2023, in January and February, we surmounted, without exaggeration, the most difficult winter in history… we did not fade away in the darkness. The darkness did not engulf us. We defeated the darkness,” Zelensky said.

Zelensky acknowledged that there have been challenges but implored the Ukrainian people to persevere.

“The war, unfortunately, separated families, took away sons and daughters, and at the same time united us into one big family… hold onto the belief in Ukraine’s return. Knowing that all expectations are not in vain. And I want you to feel our gratitude to you for this. And remember: without each and every one of you, Ukraine will be incomplete.”

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