Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed his gratitude for German support for Ukraine during 2022 in a message addressed to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Twitter on Saturday.
“Weapon deliveries, protection for over 1 million Ukrainians, G7 presidency with a focus on Ukraine, financial and technical aid, EU candidate status,” Zelenskyy’s message said in German. “Thank you for the turning point, Mr. Chancellor,” he added, referring to the term “Zeitenwende,” which was named German word of the year.
“Let us complete it in 2023 with our common victory,” Zelenskyy said.
Scholz previously pledged that Germany would “continue to support Ukraine” in his New Year’s Eve address.
“Many are worried about the war. We sympathize with the Ukrainian people who, even on days like today, have no peace from the Russian bombs and missiles,” Scholz said.
He added that, thanks to German support, Ukrainians have been able to defend their homeland.
Here are the other main headlines from the war in Ukraine on Saturday, December 31:
Zelensky: Ukraine will never forgive Russia for war
The Ukrainian president used a separate video message to tell Russians that his country will never forgive them for launching the invasion.
“A terrorist state will not be forgiven,” he said in Russian. “And those who order such attacks and those who carry them out are not forgiven, to put it mildly.”
Zelensky added that Russia was not at war with NATO, “as your propagandists lie.”
Nor, he added, was the war for anything historical but “is for a person who will stay in power for the rest of his life,” a reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
While Putin wants to show that he is leading, with the military behind him, “he is just hiding,” Zelenskyy said.
“He hides behind the military, behind missiles, behind the walls of his residences and palaces, he hides behind you and burns your country and your future.”
Over 200 Russian and Ukrainian soldiers released in exchange
The two sides announced the prisoner exchange on Saturday, with the Russian Defense Ministry saying that 82 of its soldiers had been released.
Ukrainian presidential chief-of-staff, Andriy Yermak, said that more than 140 Ukrainian soldiers had been handed back.
Yermak said that some of those returned by Russia were injured, with others having been captured after fighting in Mariupol and on Snake Island.
Explosions shook Kyiv on New Year’s Eve
The familiar sound of air raid sirens rang out across the Ukrainian capital on Saturday as loud explosions were heard in its central districts.
DW political correspondent Emmanuelle Chaze, who is currently in Kyiv, reported “very loud explosions” in the Shevchenkivs’kyi district.
City Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko also reported on his Telegram channel that an elderly man had been killed, adding that several others, including a Japanese journalist, were being treated for injuries.
Ukrainian Presidential aide Kyrylo Tymoshenko wrote on his Telegram channel that a hotel in central Kyiv had been damaged.
Ukraine’s commander-in-chief General Valeriy Zaluzhny said that 12 of the 20 missiles fired by Russia had been shot down.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian troops attacked Russian positions in eastern Ukraine, the TASS news agency reported.
The village of Pervomayskoye in Luhansk was targeted with at least two rounds from a Himars multiple rocket launcher.
Ukrainian media reported explosions near Dzhankoi airport in Russian-occupied Crimea.
Putin depicts the invasion of Ukraine as a defensive war in the New Year’s message
Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed the West for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began in February, during a nine-minute video message that was broadcast on state TV as Russia’s far east entered 2023.
“For years, Western elites hypocritically assured us of their peaceful intentions,” he said in the video that was recorded from the headquarters of the Russian southern military district.
“In fact, in every possible way they were encouraging neo-Nazis who conducted open terrorism against civilians in the Donbas,” he said, framing the invasion as a war to protect the Russian “motherland” and the “true independence” of its people. .
Earlier on Saturday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu praised Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine and said that victory was “inevitable.”
Zelensky plans to strengthen air defenses in 2023
In his nightly address, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy discussed the role of the country’s air defenses, days after Russia launched yet another wave of air strikes.
“This year, we not only maintained our air defenses, but we made them stronger than ever,” Zelenskyy said. “But in the new year Ukrainian air defense will become even stronger, even more effective.”
“Ukrainian air defense can become the most powerful in Europe, and this will be a guarantee of security not only for our country, but also for the entire continent,” he added.
Military support sent by NATO members has helped bolster Ukraine’s air defenses, allowing them to shoot down Russian missiles and drones. But many have still gotten through and devastated the country’s civilian infrastructure — especially energy supplies.
Ukraine claims Russia is planning further mobilization
Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov released a video addressed to Russian citizens on Friday night in which he claimed that, in about one week, “the Russian authorities will close the borders for men, then declare martial law and begin another wave of mobilization.”
He did not explain the source of the claim which could not be independently verified.
But his message called on Russians to ask themselves why they would risk being killed or seriously injured if they were sent to fight in Ukraine.
German schools call for more support after taking in some 200,000 Ukrainian children
Germany has welcomed hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees, including around 200,000 school-age children, since the Russian invasion began.
These students have been taken in by German schools, many of which have also hired more staff to support their needs.
But representatives of German high schools have told the German Press Agency (DPA) that they are “at their limit” regarding the extra work and have called for more state support.
“We can’t wait another year and a half until the number of new students shows up in official statistics so that we can hire more staff,” the head of the Federal Conference of High School Principals, Arnd Niedermöller, told DPA.
Schools have been trying to bring in extra personnel to help with the increase in students, but over 60% of schools asked said that they cannot get hold of enough support staff. Almost 90% of surveyed schools said they had taken in at least one Ukrainian student.
“The supply of teaching staff remains lacking,” Susanne Lin-Klitzing, head of the German Philologists’ Association, told DPA. “What we urgently need for next year so that teaching staff can make it through, are better working conditions and less strain.”
ab/dj (dpa, Reuters, AFP, AP)