Ukrainians "know what we are fighting for," President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a defiant Christmas message Saturday, hours after officials said 10 people were killed by Russian shelling in the southern city of Kherson.
"Dinner at the family table cannot be so tasty and warm. There may be empty chairs around it. And our houses and streets can't be so bright. And Christmas bells can ring not so loudly and inspiringly through air raid sirens, or even worse — gunshots and explosions," Zelenskyy said.
"We endured at the beginning of the war," he added. "We endured attacks, threats, nuclear blackmail, terror, missile strikes. Let's endure this winter because we know what we are fighting for."
Despite experiencing "a lot of bitter news," Zelenskyy — just back from his quick trip to Washington where he secured another $1.8 billion military aid package — said Ukrainians would sing Christmas carols "cheerier than ever."
"We will hear the voices and greetings of relatives — in our hearts — even if communication service and the Internet are down. And even in total darkness — we will find each other — to hug each other tightly. And if there is no heat, we will give a big hug to warm each other," he added.
Zelenskyy's message came despite the fact that the majority of his compatriots are Orthodox Christians and mark Christmas on Jan. 7, in accordance with the Julian calendar.
In line with the vast majority of Christians around the world, a growing number of Ukrainian worshippers have recently started celebrating on Dec. 24.
Saturday marked 10 months since the start of the Russian invasion and Zelenskyy's message came after he posted photos of the wreckage in Kherson on his social media accounts.
"This is not sensitive content — it's the real life of Kherson," Zelenskyy tweeted alongside images showing cars on fire, bodies on the street and building windows blown out.
At least 10 people had been killed and 68 injured by the strikes, Kherson Regional Gov. Yaroslav Yanushevych said in a Telegram post.
Yanushevych called on people to "evacuate" the region where the shelling has been especially intense after Russian forces withdrew from the city of Kherson last month and it was reclaimed by the Ukrainian army.
For those who had been internally displaced, he said there were "free places to live in other regions."
Ukraine has faced a blistering onslaught of Russian artillery fire, missiles, shelling and drone attacks since early October, much of it targeting the energy infrastructure in a bid to cut electricity and heating services as the freezing winter advances.
Earlier Saturday, the Donetsk regional governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said two people were killed and five wounded in shelling there over the past day. The deaths were in Kurakhove, a town of about 20,000 18 miles west of Russian-controlled Donetsk city.
On Sunday, President Vladimir Putin said Russia was "ready to negotiate with everyone involved about acceptable solutions," but Kyiv and its Western backers had refused to engage in talks.
"I believe that we are acting in the right direction, we are defending our national interests, the interests of our citizens, our people. And we have no other choice but to protect our citizens," Putin told state television in an interview, according to Reuters.