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Ukraine marks the end of a year almost entirely spent under attack


It is a somber and frightening New Year's Eve in Kyiv, where Ukraine marks the end of nearly an entire year of war. And 2023 will open with no end in sight to the fighting. This day was marked with loud explosions in central Kyiv, hitting a residential area and a hotel, among other targets. NPR's Tim Mak joins us now from Ukraine's capital city. Hello.

TIM MAK, BYLINE: Hey there.

SELYUKH: Tell us about these latest Russian strikes.

MAK: Well, they took place all across Ukraine in western Ukraine, the region of Khmelnytskyi. An official said that 20 Russian missiles flew over the area and injured at least four civilians. And in the southern city of Mykolaiv, they also saw strikes leading to injuries. That's according to officials in that region. Now, things were especially loud in the capital city of Kyiv. At least 10 explosions were heard this afternoon in quick succession. Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko reported that blasts were reported in four of the city's neighborhoods. And he said also that at least one person died. One of the strikes happened at a hotel called the Alfavito Hotel. The whole corner of the building had collapsed in front of these Ukrainian and EU flags that were still standing. And another strike happened in a residential neighborhood called Protasiv Yar. In videos and photos of one of those scenes there, circulated by an adviser to the Ukraine's Ministry of Internal Affairs, a woman can be seen motionless on the ground. When we arrived, we saw a man shouting about how missiles had just struck there, and he was arguing with emergency workers at the scene.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

MAK: He was shouting, obviously in anguish at what had happened in the hours before.

SELYUKH: Yeah, very, very difficult to hear. How are Ukrainian officials and residents responding?

MAK: You know, Saturday's strikes came as social media reports explosions in four cities in the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula, almost as if it were a Ukrainian response. But no official Russian sources have corroborated those reports. Back in Kyiv, at the scene of one of the attacks, a woman named Valentina Povyakel gave us a tour of her apartment. The windows were all blown out. Her apartment was damaged, and her cat was scared and hiding.

VALENTINA POVYAKEL: (Non-English language spoken).

MAK: "What I heard - it was so scary that I really became terrified," she said. "The explosion, so huge, and all the windows immediately shattered." She also tells us that within an hour of the explosion, her neighborhoods had come by and helpfully taken away the damaged windows off the hinges, put up plywood to block out the cold, and she had swept up much of the glass. Still, there was a lot of lasting damage to her home, and she's a retired pensioner. That's what she told us. And as we were leaving, she asked, what am I going to do now?

SELYUKH: It is New Year's Eve in Kyiv tonight also. How do you think the capital city will be marking it? Will they be marking it?

MAK: Well, you know, Kyiv is normally a bustling, exciting city on a night like this. But obviously, these strikes have taken away a lot of the mood to have a celebratory tone. It's important to note that martial law is still in place, and there's a curfew of 11 o'clock. Fireworks are banned here. But it still hasn't stopped some people from trying to set off fireworks. There's this viral video making the rounds on social media where a woman in Kyiv reacts to someone setting off loud fireworks in her neighborhood. She hears these loud bangs, and she says she nearly had a heart attack and begins cursing at the people setting them off. It's a reflection of why fireworks are banned right now in Kyiv because in the city, as we were reminded today, loud explosions often do mean death. And so many people here are traumatized by the events of the past year.

SELYUKH: That is NPR's Tim Mak in Kyiv. Thank you, Tim.

MAK: Thanks so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tim Mak
Tim Mak is NPR's Washington Investigative Correspondent, focused on political enterprise journalism.