Ukraine's Zelenskyy speaks of 'Christmas miracle' but attacks leave millions without power

Russia destroying energy infrastructure as part of recent strategy to break Ukrainian morale

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his besieged homeland's endurance was a 'Christmas miracle'. AP
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Ukraine’s President Volodomyr Zelenskyy has given a Christmas address calling on the world to “understand what absolute evil we are fighting against”, 10 months into the brutal war sparked by Russia's invasion.

Mr Zelenskyy, who spoke to the nation a day before Ukraine’s Christmas public holiday and ahead of the January 6 celebration marked by many Ukrainian Orthodox Christians, made the address after a series of Russian attacks on the southern city of Kherson.

Ten people were killed and 58 wounded in drone and missile attacks on the city, attacks Kyiv described as of no strategic value and acts committed “for pleasure”. He said Ukraine's endurance in the face of so many attacks represented a "Christmas miracle".

Russia has relied on Iranian supplies of drones in recent months, after its own stockpiles were reduced due to the high intensity of the conflict, which is stretching the military capacity of both sides to breaking point.

After the Kherson attacks, Ukraine on Sunday called for tougher western action against Iranian drone manufacturers and their network of components suppliers, who have already been hit with sanctions.

As millions of Ukrainians suffered without electricity or heating — after a Russian campaign to destroy energy infrastructure amid freezing winter conditions — Mr Zelenskyy said that “even in complete darkness, we will find each other to hug each other tightly. And if there is no heat, we will embrace each other for a long time to warm one another.”

Much of Ukraine is struggling without heat or power in sub-zero temperatures after Moscow started targeting electricity and water systems nearly two months ago.

The UN's human rights chief, Volker Tuerk, has warned the campaign has inflicted "extreme hardship" on Ukrainians this winter, and he condemned suspected war crimes by Russian forces.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov took to Twitter, calling for more weapon and ammunition deliveries to Kyiv after the attack on Kherson.

President Vladimir Putin said Russia was ready to negotiate with all parties involved in the war in Ukraine but that Kyiv and its western backers had refused to engage in talks.

"We are ready to negotiate with everyone involved about acceptable solutions but that is up to them — we are not the ones refusing to negotiate, they are," Mr Putin told Rossiya 1 state TV in an interview aired on Sunday.

Mr Putin said Russia was acting in the "right direction" in Ukraine because the West, led by the United States, was trying to cleave Russia apart.

"I believe that we are acting in the right direction, we are defending our national interests, the interests of our citizens, our people," Mr Putin said. "And we have no other choice but to protect our citizens."

Updated: December 30, 2022, 2:07 PM