By Maria Kostenko, Rob Picheta and Seb Shukla, CNN
At least two people were hurt and key infrastructure has been damaged in a Russian drone assault on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the latest attempt by Moscow to ravage Ukraine’s power supplies.
Explosions and air raid sirens were heard around the city early Monday, with alerts sounding from 2 a.m. until after 5 a.m. local time.
The Ukrainian Air Force claimed to have shot down 30 out of 35 drones launched from Sunday night into Monday, but those that got around air defenses damaged power systems and civilian targets.
The Iranian-made, self-detonating Shahed-136 and Shahed-131 drones were launched from the “eastern coast of the Sea of Azov,” the Air Force said in a statement on Facebook.
Many of the drones targeted Kyiv, according to the city’s military administration, which said 18 out of 23 spotted in the sky over the capital were intercepted. There were no deaths recorded, but authorities said that one critical infrastructure facility was hit. Serhiy Popko, head of the Kyiv city military administration, said that emergency services were working to limit the consequences of the attack.
Popko added that two areas in central and western Kyiv bore the brunt of the damage. A road in Solomyanskyi was damaged and fragments of a drone landed on a high rise residential building in Shevchenkivskui district.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces have repeatedly hit Ukraine’s capital and other large cities around the country in recent weeks, seeking to wipe out the power grid and forcing millions of Ukrainians to go without electricity, heating and water during the freezing winter months.
A Russian missile barrage on Friday dealt a major blow to Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure, leaving millions without power. Repeated missile and drone attacks since October, which have targeted critical infrastructure, are part of a strategy by the Kremlin to terrorize Ukrainians and is in violation of the laws of war, according to experts.
On Friday, Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said “nine power generation facilities” were damaged, without specifying their locations.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in his nightly address Sunday, said electricity had been restored to a total of nine million Ukrainians following that round of strikes, but large-scale outages remained in some areas.
“I thank everyone who carries out these repair works in any weather and around the clock,” Zelensky said. “It is not easy, it is difficult, but I am sure: we will pull through together, and Russia’s aggression will fail.”
The repeated attacks come as Ukrainians far from the eastern and southern frontlines of the ground war seek for some semblance of normality in the run-up to Christmas.
An artificial Christmas tree in the center of Kyiv was installed and decorated over the weekend, set to be illuminated with “energy-saving garlands” that will be powered by a generator at specific times, the city’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Telegram.
Roughly 1,000 blue and yellow balls and white doves will decorate the tree in Sophia Square, with a trident placed at the tree’s summit. Flags of countries that are supporting Ukraine will be placed at the bottom.
There will, however, be no Christmas markets, mass entertainment events or rides in Sophia Square, usually a focus of festive celebrations, this year.
Ukrainian children are asking St. Nicholas for air defense and weapons for “victory for all Ukrainians,” Zelensky said in his virtual address to the Joint Expeditionary Force leaders’ summit on Monday.
“On St. Nicholas Day today … Russian terrorists gave a gift to Ukrainian children with new strikes,” said Zelensky.
“Ukrainian children in their letters to St. Nicholas are asking for air defense, for weapons, for victory — a victory for them, a victory for all Ukrainians,” he said.
“They understand everything, our children. Let us act!” Zelensky added.
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CNN’s Victoria Butenko and Josh Pennington contributed reporting.