Ukraine weathered another round of missile and drone attacks early on New Year’s Day as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy lauded the country’s determination to overcome Russian aggression, saying that “when we win, we will hug”.

Russia launched 45 Iranian-made drones mostly targeting the capital Kyiv overnight, all of which were shot down by Ukraine’s air defences, with no reported casualties. “It didn’t work out that the holiday was spoilt for Ukrainians!” the country’s air forces said.

The latest attack came hours after Saturday’s volley of cruise missiles that Russia launched as President Vladimir Putin was delivering a militaristic end-of-year message during which he pledged to put an end to the “criminal Nazi regime in Kyiv”.

Flanked by uniformed soldiers, Putin’s speech contrasted sharply with Zelenskyy’s more emotive message in which he said he wished for “one thing — victory” and that 2023 would be a year of return for Ukrainians displaced by Russia’s full-scale invasion launched more than 10 months ago.

“The return of our people: Soldiers — to their families. Prisoners — to their homes. Migrants — to their Ukraine . . . Return of our lands . . . Return to normal life,” Zelenskyy said in his overnight New Year’s address to the nation. “To happy moments without curfew . . . without air raid sirens.”

A Russian family watches the country’s president Vladimir Putin deliver his New Year’s address
A Russian family watches the country’s president Vladimir Putin deliver his New Year’s address © Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images

Russia has stepped up its use of missile and drone strikes as its military campaign on the ground has become bogged down in the face of Ukrainian counteroffensives, with the aim of destroying critical infrastructure and eroding Ukrainian morale.

Kyiv’s air raid sirens began sounding shortly after midnight, and continued until nearly 5am on New Year’s Day. But by midday, the capital’s streets were marked by relaxed-looking Ukrainians, with the aisles of the upmarket Tsum department store in the centre busy with shoppers.

Western officials condemned the latest round of Russian attacks and pledged to continue standing with Ukraine in 2023.

Bridget Brink, US ambassador to Ukraine, wrote on Twitter: “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.”

Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, said in a tweet: “At the year’s end, Putin tries once again to force Ukrainians into darkness with despicable attacks. We are resolved to continue standing by Ukraine.”

“Glory to Ukraine,” Ben Wallace, Britain’s defence minister, said on Twitter. “The UK will be with you in 2023.”

Sunday’s attempted drone strikes on Kyiv only resulted in falling debris that caused little damage, according to city authorities. But the 20 cruise missiles that Russia launched from the Caspian Sea on Saturday left at least one dead in Kyiv, and dozens wounded across the country. Ukraine’s military said it shot down 12 of the missiles — lower than the roughly 80 per cent success rate achieved against recent attacks.

Zelenskyy, who pledged last week that the nation’s air defences “will become even stronger and more efficient” in the new year, has long pleaded with his US and European allies to bolster Ukraine’s defensive systems, which rely on Soviet-era equipment that is in danger of running out of ammunition.

The latest Russian attacks, which partly seek to deplete those stocks further, came days after US president Joe Biden said he had approved provision of one Patriot air defence missile battery for Kyiv to be delivered in the coming months.

Additional reporting by Henry Foy in Brussels

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