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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Ukraine remains festive despite New Year’s strikes

Ukraine remains festive despite New Year’s strikes

Viktoria Lukovenko was making a salad for a New Year’s Eve party on Saturday when an explosion exploded above her head and she had to run for cover at a Kyiv metro station.

Two hours later, with the air-raid sirens lifted, she returned to the kitchen to peel hard-boiled eggs and try on clothes, determined not to let the latest Russian airstrikes disrupt her vacation plans.

“We will ring in the New Year with Moments,” the 18-year-old university student told AFP.

“I think it’s really cool that we have that luxury even in this situation.”

At least one man was killed and 20 others were wounded in Kyiv on Saturday in a series of attacks that were also reported in the southern Mykolaev region and the western Khmelnytsky region, officials said.

Across the capital, however, residents exhausted by the 10-month war said they had no intention of changing their party plans – with many partying all night due to the 11pm-5am curfew.

Yaroslav Mutenko, a 23-year-old filmmaker, was taking a shower when a loud bang blew up a corner of the four-star hotel Alfavito, just down the street from his apartment.

As rescuers sealed off the rubble-filled street in front of the hotel, he told AFP that he would also be partying at a friend’s house at night.

“Our enemies, the Russians, can destroy our calm, but they cannot destroy our spirit,” he said.

“Why would I want to celebrate with my friends? Because this year I learned that it’s important to keep people close.”

– ‘It’s important to be here’ –

Ukrainian officials condemned the latest attacks, just as Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed in his annual New Year’s address that Russia has “moral and historical correctness”.

“War criminal Putin ‘celebrated’ New Years by killing people,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter.

Deputy President of the Presidency Kirillo Tymoshenko said Moscow’s idea for New Year’s Eve celebrations appeared to involve “cameras of destroyed residential buildings in Ukraine”.

As Kyiv residents waited for the air-raid sirens to clear, some women had already donned the brightly embroidered traditional dresses they would wear to parties later in the evening as residents crowded into underground subway stations.

Khrystyna, a 30-year-old financial analyst who gave only her first name, told AFP she was visiting Kyiv from her current base in Norway and said she had no regrets about returning home for the holiday.

“It’s still important to be here, and I think it’s also helpful to experience it for what it is,” she said.

Last year her friends hosted a “Vikings”-themed New Year’s Eve party, but this year they plan to have a lower-key gathering with fewer people, she said.

“I’m really looking forward to the time when the airstrikes are over so I can go and meet them,” she said.

– dreaming of “victory” –

Saturday’s strike immediately raised fears of more power outages, which have plunged millions into the dark in recent weeks as Russia stepped up its attacks on energy infrastructure.

Yevgeny Starovoytov, 45, who was buying fresh fruit and sushi at a market in central Kyiv, said he had planned a quiet evening at home as his family got used to power outages.

“It’s even nice. There’s a chance to play and talk when there’s no light, no internet connection,” he said, noting that it’s hard to tear his 7-year-old son away from phones and digital devices during normal times.

However, not everyone is in high spirits.

At a nearby caviar stand, Oleksiy Tykhonov, a 40-year-old vendor, complained of no customers.

“There was clearly no festive spirit and there was not enough money,” he said, adding that in peacetime markets would be packed with last-minute shoppers.

The empty scene leaves him with just one wish for 2023: military victory.

“There’s no need for a holiday – it doesn’t matter the new year, the old year,” he said.

“The most important thing is that we win, and as soon as possible.”


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