Russia will not steal Christmas, says Kiev mayor as he inaugurates festive tree

Eva Deschamps / December 20, 2022

Officials in the Ukrainian capital lit up a Christmas tree in the city center on Monday, assuring that they would not let Russia "steal" this Christmas from Ukrainian children.
The day began with a series of attacks on a set of critical infrastructure in Kiev. But by the end of the day, a 12-meter-high artificial tree was installed in the center of the capital, symbolically decorated with doves of Peace.
A few dozen residents braved the freezing cold to admire the tree - which is adjacent to Kiev's Saint Sophia Cathedral and its famous golden domes - and take selfies.
Among them, the tour operator Natalya. She is delighted with the AFP: the tree "brings a festive atmosphere in such a difficult period ».
It is such an emblematic element of our holiday season," she added, pointing to the tree illuminated by a constellation of blue and yellow dots, the colors of the Ukrainian flag.
At the top is the country's coat of arms, which represents a golden trident.
"The Russians are trying to deprive our citizens of a normal life, but we will not let them steal the biggest holidays - New Year and Christmas - from our children," said the city's mayor, Vitali Klitschko, at the inauguration of the tree.
According to Orthodox tradition, Ukrainians celebrate Christmas on January 7, but polls show a growing number of people preferring to move the date to December 25, in line with other churches.
An Interfax-Ukraine poll shows that support for this change has increased from 26% in 2021 to 44% in 2022.
Kiev City Hall had initially hesitated to install the tree, said the mayor, referring to the attacks by Russian forces that caused power outages and exhausted the Ukrainian electricity grid.
As a result, millions of people were left without electricity in the middle of winter.
In this context, the city has adapted. The fairy lights of the tree are therefore powered by a diesel generator, and the decorations from previous years are reused.
"We called it 'the Christmas tree of Ukrainian invincibility,'" Klitschko said, stressing that everything was done "to make sure that children have a vacation despite the difficult times."
But it is difficult to ignore the conflict and get into the Christmas spirit.
"There is no particular festive atmosphere," Tetyana Prykhodko, an accountant, told AFP.
She has just moved from Kherson, a city in southern Ukraine occupied for months by Russian forces.
"I just hope that, finally, everything will end, and peace will come. We are all waiting for it," she says.
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