Russia attacks Ukraine’s Kyiv, Kharkiv after Putin vows intensified attacks

‘Waiting for all of this to end’

The heart of the Ukrainian capital was largely deserted as air raid sirens blared for hours and explosions hit throughout the city, leaving residents to pack shelters. 

Kyiv resident Olga Povalyaeva told NBC News that around 8 a.m. local time (1 a.m. ET), she heard a loud explosion and saw the sky turn red in her area of the Solomianskyi district of Kyiv, which appeared to have suffered the most serious damage Tuesday.

“Then a moment later, there were huge plumes of smoke over one of the buildings, and the blast wave hit our building — the walls and the windows started shaking a lot,” Povalyaeva, 31, said.

She said it was one of the biggest shelling attacks so far, with blasts hitting really close to home and lasting for about 1½ hours. “I was personally really scared,” she said, adding that she spent much of the day hiding in the bathroom with her dog, Daisy. “We were just waiting for all of this to end,” she added.

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire after a Russian attack in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024.
Firefighters work to extinguish a fire after a Russian attack Tuesday in Kyiv.Efrem Lukatsky / AP

The city’s military administration said that at least two people were killed and 48 others were injured. The officials said residential high-rise buildings caught on fire in the Solomianskyi district as a result of the strikes, trapping some people inside as rescuers rushed to get them out. Mayor Vitali Klitschko shared a video of one smoldering residential building in the area, calling it a “depressing” scene. 

Hits were also reported in the broader Kyiv region, where two people died, Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said.  

In Kharkiv in Ukraine’s northeast, Klymenko said, one person died and 44 others were injured, with a lot of civilian infrastructure damaged. The regional governor, Oleh Syniehubov, shared photos on Telegram, showing mangled cars and blown-out windows in residential buildings. 

Ukraine’s air force said the attack Tuesday was reminiscent of the one Dec. 29, which Ukrainian officials called one of the biggest aerial barrages of the war, in the range of weapons used by the Russians, including cruise and ballistic missiles. The Russian Defense Ministry said later Tuesday that it carried out a strike on military targets in Kyiv and its suburbs with “long-range precision weapons” and drones.

A crater outside a damaged residential building in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024.
A crater outside a damaged residential building Tuesday in Kharkiv.Sergey Bobok / AFP – Getty Images

Following the massive Russian assault across Ukraine on Friday, Russian officials reported an unprecedented attack on the border city of Belgorod that killed 25 people, including five children, and became the deadliest attack on Russian soil since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine almost two years ago.

Russian proxy officials in Ukraine also reported the shelling of the city of Donetsk, controlled by Russia, on New Year’s Eve, resulting in four people killed and 13 injured.

Russia blamed Kyiv for both attacks, but Ukraine usually refrains from claiming public responsibility for attacks on Russian territory. Since Friday, Ukraine has also blamed Moscow for daily strikes on its cities. 

In rare public comments Monday, Putin called the attack on Belgorod an act of “terror,” which he said would not go unpunished. “We, for our part, will increase the strikes,” the Russian leader said.

Ukraine’s allies condemned the Kremlin’s actions. 

“Putin is ringing in 2024 by launching missiles at Kyiv and around the country as millions of Ukrainians again take shelter in freezing temps,” U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink said in the wake of Tuesday’s attack. “It’s urgent and critical that we support Ukraine now — to stop Putin here,” Brink said on X.

But in recent months, Ukraine’s backers, including in Washington, have shown signs of reluctance to continue providing Kyiv with military aid. Congress has yet to greenlight a $61 billion aid package, which U.S. and Ukrainian officials have signaled could leave Kyiv at risk of losing the war.  

“I thank all partners who help in strengthening our air shield,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Telegram after the attack Tuesday, as he said almost a hundred rockets were used. “And it’s obvious that it helps save hundreds of lives every day and every night that would have been taken by Russian terror if it weren’t for Patriots and other defense systems,” he said, referring to American-supplied Patriot systems. 

“This year, we will continue working with everyone in the world who values life to further strengthen our air shield and hold Russia accountable for what it has done,” he added. 

Daryna Mayer reported from Kyiv, and Yuliya Talmazan from London.