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Russia Launches Fresh Barrage on Kyiv After Zelensky Vows to Strengthen Ukraine’s Air Defenses

KYIV, Ukraine—Russia fired a salvo of missiles at Kyiv and other parts of Ukraine on Saturday in what many Ukrainians saw as an attempt to intimidate them on the eve of the new year. 

The barrage of more than 20 missiles was the second this week and came hours after President

Volodymyr Zelensky

pledged to strengthen Ukraine’s air defenses in 2023. The commander in chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, Valeriy Zaluzhny, said 12 of the missiles had been intercepted. 

In Kyiv, there were explosions in several districts, according to Mayor

Vitali Klitschko.

One person was killed in a blast in the Solomyansk district, he said, and 11 people including a Japanese journalist were hospitalized.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko,

the deputy head of Mr. Zelensky’s office, said a hotel and a private home had been damaged by falling debris.

“The Russian New Year at the festive table is footage of broken residential buildings in Ukraine,” Mr. Tymoshenko said. There were also attacks on the Khmelnytskyi and Zaporizhzhia regions, he said.

Eight explosions were heard in the capital as officials said Ukraine’s air-defense systems had been activated. An hour later, pedestrians and vehicles were moving around central Kyiv unperturbed. A couple, one person in combat gear, looked for places to drink, testing the doors of a bar.

The front of a hotel was shorn off by one of the blasts to reveal bedrooms and Christmas decorations crushed beneath debris in the lobby. A military medic said the hotel hadn’t been in operation. 

Shattered glass was strewn across the street, with all the windows of adjoining buildings blown out. Ukrainians gathered to look at the damage, one wearing a Santa Claus hat. 

“It’s all about scaring us for the holiday,” said one onlooker, who gave his name as Roman. The unemployed 30-year-old said he would be celebrating on New Year’s Eve anyway. 

Streets away, shoppers continued to stock up for the festivities, with several carrying decorations.

A Ukrainian soldier embraces his wife in central Kyiv while their child plays with a balloon on Thursday.



Photo:

Joseph Sywenkyj for The Wall Street Journal

Christmas carolers dressed in traditional Ukrainian costumes take refuge in a metro station in central Kyiv during a Russian missile attack on Saturday.



Photo:

Joseph Sywenkyj for The Wall Street Journal

At a second site, ordnance had struck a residential block, killing one person and injuring at least five, bystanders said they had been told by officials. A steady stream of ambulances left the area, passing through a police cordon. 

The barrage came just days after Russia fired 69 missiles at targets across the country. Ukrainian officials said 54 of them were shot down. A wave of Iranian-made drones followed on Friday.

Earlier on Saturday, the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense warned that Russia could strike again in the coming days “in an effort to undermine the morale of the Ukrainian population over the new year holiday period.”

In his nightly address Friday, Mr. Zelensky pledged to strengthen Ukraine’s defenses next year against missile strikes that have repeatedly targeted critical infrastructure since October.

Repeated strikes on the grid have periodically left millions of Ukrainians without electricity and forced the government to scramble for spare parts. Ensuring power supply will be among the top priorities for Mr. Zelensky’s government in the year ahead, he said.

A kiosk sells coffee in Kyiv’s Volodymyrska park in central Kyiv on Friday. The rest of the park is dark to conserve energy.



Photo:

Joseph Sywenkyj for The Wall Street Journal

Ukrainian officials say they are facing a critical shortage of parts, particularly the transformers that turn high-voltage electricity produced in power stations into what is used at home and work.

The U.S. and its allies are trying to provide replacement parts, but are struggling to furnish some of the equipment compatible with Ukraine’s grid, which is rooted in Soviet technology.

Kyiv’s Western allies have also worked to bolster Ukraine’s air defenses, helping to partially shield the country from barrages of missiles and drones unleashed every seven to 10 days. The U.S. recently said it would provide Ukraine with a single Patriot air-defense battery that will help fill a gap in the country’s existing patchwork of air defenses.

Russia is betting that Western support for Kyiv will wane as the war drags on, and the costs of arming the country and keeping its economy afloat grow. Moscow has mobilized new troops and turned to friendly governments such as Iran for supplies of arms and ammunition, including drones.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary-General

Jens Stoltenberg

said there was no indication that Russian President

Vladimir Putin

had changed his overall objective in invading his smaller neighbor: “This is to control Ukraine,” he told the German Press Agency in an interview published on Friday.

“Wars are unpredictable, but we have to prepare for the long haul and also for new Russian offensives,” Mr. Stoltenberg said. “We should not underestimate Russia.”

Ukrainian soldiers defend the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, which has become the war’s main battlefield.



Photo:

sameer al-doumy/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

In his New Year’s address, German Chancellor

Olaf Scholz

said the European Union and NATO were more united than ever over the war in Ukraine, which he described as a tough test for his country. Mr. Scholz pledged continued support for Ukraine, according to excerpts of the speech shared with German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

The onset of winter has slowed combat operations, but both sides are eager to show they can make gains after 10 months of fighting. “In general, we hold our positions. There are also areas of the front where we are slowly advancing,” Mr. Zelensky said.

In recent days, Ukrainian military officials have said their forces are closing in on the Russian-occupied city of Kreminna in the eastern Luhansk region. Control over Kreminna could enable Kyiv to expand its efforts to retake other Russian-held areas in Ukraine’s east and ease pressure on the city of Bakhmut, which has become the main battlefield.

Both sides have poured troops, tanks and artillery into Bakhmut and taken thousands of casualties in brutal trench warfare that has drawn comparisons to World War I.

Moscow designated the eastern Donbas area as its primary objective after being forced to retreat from Kyiv in the early months of the invasion. The decision to withdraw from the southern regional capital of Kherson last month also freed up more soldiers for Russia’s offensive in the east. But the city’s Ukrainian defenders have put up stiff resistance, denying Moscow an important victory after months of setbacks.

An evacuation train prepares to depart from Kherson, Ukraine.



Photo:

dimitar dilkoff/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Write to Isabel Coles at isabel.coles@wsj.com and Alistair MacDonald at Alistair.Macdonald@wsj.com

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