President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Ukrainians to be “patient and confident” in his Christmas message after a wave of deadly Russian attacks hit the southern city of Kherson.
Ten months after Russia went to war with Ukraine, Zelensky spoke of patience and staying the course, while acknowledging that “freedom comes at a high price.”
He urged the nation to stand firm in the face of a harsh winter of energy outages, the absence of loved ones and the ever-present threat of Russian attack.
Ukrainian officials said Russia fired deadly rockets into the center of Kherson on Christmas Eve, killing at least 10 people and injuring dozens more. Zelensky described the attacks as “killing for intimidation and pleasure”.
In his Christmas message, Zelensky acknowledged that all this year’s holidays had a bitter aftertaste for the troubled nation.
“We can feel the traditional Christmas spirit in different ways. Dinner at the family table can’t be this delicious and heartwarming.
“There could be empty chairs around it. And our houses and streets can’t be that bright. The Christmas bells won’t be ringing so loud and inspiring. By air raid sirens, or worse – gunfire and explosions. ”
He said that Ukraine has been fighting the forces of evil for three hundred days and eight years, but, “in this battle, we have one more powerful and effective weapon. The hammer and sword of our spirit and consciousness. God Wisdom. Courage and bravery. Virtues that motivate us to do good and overcome evil.”
Addressing the Ukrainian people directly, he said that even if communications services and the internet were down, the country would sing Christmas carols louder than generators and hear the voices and greetings of loved ones “in our hearts”.
“Even in total darkness – we’ll find each other – cuddling. If there’s no heat, we’ll give a big hug to keep warm.”
Zelensky concluded: “We will celebrate our holiday! As always. We will smile and be happy. As always. The difference is one. We will not wait for a miracle. After all, we made it ourselves.”
Ukraine traditionally celebrates Christmas on January 7, in line with Orthodox customs that recognize the birth of Jesus according to the Julian calendar.
But a years-long rift between the Ukrainian and Russian branches of the Orthodox Church has widened since Moscow’s February invasion.
A branch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church announced last month that it would allow its churches to celebrate Christmas on December 25. Many young Ukrainians are now choosing to celebrate the holiday on December 25 in hopes of moving away from Russia and towards the Western world.
A series of deadly Russian attacks hit the city of Kherson hours before Zelensky’s Christmas speech, with apartments and medical facilities destroyed, according to Yaroslav Yanushevych, head of the region’s military administration. hit.
Yanusevich said on Sunday that Russia carried out 71 attacks in the wider Kherson region on Saturday, killing 16 people, including three state emergency workers killed in mine clearance operations. Another 64 people were injured to varying degrees, he said.
Zelensky condemned the shelling of Kherson as an act of “horror”.
“The terrorist state continues to wreak havoc on the Russian world in the form of shelling civilians. Kherson. Saturday morning, Christmas Eve, in the city center,” he said.
“These are not military installations,” he wrote in a telegram on Saturday. “By defined rules, this is not a war. This is terror, killing to intimidate and for fun.”
In November, Russian troops retreated from the city of Kherson, the only regional capital they have occupied since the invasion began, in a major setback for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Since then, Russian troops have been stationed across the Kherson River and regularly shell the city from there.