KYIV, Ukraine — As small crowds gathered on Saturday at the sites of damage from missile strikes, people talked about close calls, a New Year’s Eve disrupted and a burning anger at Russia for attacking on a holiday.
The year ended about the same way it had gone for residents of the capital and other cities, with families rushing to safer areas in their homes amid air raid sirens and explosions.
The outrage over aerial strikes on cities far from the front line is all the more palpable because Ukraine has been winning on the battlefield and the barrages serve no direct military purpose. President Volodymyr Zelensky has called such strikes “revenge of the losers.”
Viktoria Dubrovina, a retired subway system worker, heard what she described as booms in the sky and then explosions near an auditorium, called Palace of Ukraine, across the street from her apartment building in central Kyiv.
“I just don’t have words,” she said. “It’s outrageous. We know how vile they are and everybody knew they were ready to attack on the holiday, in theory. But we hoped something would change. But they did it.”
The blast shattered windows, tore a five-story-tall hole in the wall of a hotel and left concrete slabs and broken glass sprawled on a street. Strips of insulation blew about.
The Palace of Ukraine, one of the largest concert halls in the country, typically stages children’s plays during the day on New Year’s Eve, but it was closed this year because of the electricity outages from earlier strikes, Andriy Vydysh, the site’s deputy director, said in an interview. The foyer and makeup rooms were damaged.
Ihor Suruchanu, a lawyer, came to look at a nearby building at the behest of clients. The structure was standing, he said, but the blast wave had passed through it, shattering windows and tearing even interior doors from their frames.
That a civilian neighborhood had been hit, he said, did not dismay him — it showed Russia in a state of desperation.
“When I look at this, I think we will win,” he said. He said he knew of no military targets or of even electrical infrastructure in the area; a nearby factory that had once made military electronics had closed years earlier.
“Of course, they did this specifically on New Year’s Eve,” Mr. Suruchanu said. He said that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia “wanted to spoil the holiday with his fireworks, leave us without electricity and punish us because we do not want to be Russians.”
About a mile away, a missile or falling debris had slammed into a residential neighborhood, exploding with a deafening boom that sent Iryna Sidorets, 26, running for the basement while carrying her 5-year-old daughter, Halyna, in her arms.
She only realized after dashing out that she was barefoot and that the stairs were covered in glass shards. She stepped carefully and avoided cutting herself.
As dusk settled over Kyiv on New Year’s Eve, Ms. Sidorets said she had no idea where she and Halyna would spend the holiday. The apartment block was evacuated because of a gas leak. She had been preparing pizza, Halyna’s favorite food, and holiday presents were still in the apartment.
“Now, we don’t know what will happen or where we will spend the night,” she said.
Oksana Trufanova also ran into the basement of her building when the explosions began, carrying her disabled child. Later, after the strikes, she stood on the sidewalk repeating again and again “I hate them!”
The blast had blown windows off the hinges in her apartment. They can be repaired, but the holiday she had planned would not happen. She had been preparing dumplings with cherries and dumplings with potatoes, the favorite dishes of a daughter-in-law, for the New Year’s Eve dinner.
“I screamed because my strength had run out a little,” Ms. Trufanova said.
Oleksandr Chubko and Nikita Simonchuk contributed reporting from Kyiv.
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