By Oleksandr Kozhukhar
KYIV (Reuters) - Kyiv plans to erect Christmas trees, minus lights, throughout the battered city in a defiant display of holiday spirit as the capital area's millions of residents suffer through blackouts due to Russian attacks, officials said.
"No one is going to cancel the New Year and Christmas, and the atmosphere of the New Year should be there," Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko told the RBC-Ukraine news agency in an interview. "We cannot allow Putin to steal our Christmas."
Sergey Kovalenko, chief executive officer of YASNO, which provides power to Kyiv, said on his Facebook page that to save electricity, the trees will be without illuminations and garlands.
"There will be the New Year's-Christmas tree and it will be the most energy-responsible, but still festive for all of us," Kovalenko said.
Klitschko said that there will be no mass gatherings or concerts - a tradition to welcome the New Year. The city's businesses will sponsor trees throughout Kyiv, including on the Sophia Square in the Old Kyiv neighbourhood.
"Christmas trees will be installed especially to remind our children of the New Year's mood," Klitschko said. "You know, I don't want to take Santa Claus away from the children."
Russia has been carrying out massive missile bombardments on Ukraine's energy infrastructure roughly weekly since early October, with each barrage having greater impact than the last as damage accumulates and a frigid winter sets in.
Snow has been falling in Kyiv, a city that had 2.8 million residents before the war, as people struggled with disruptions to electricity supply and central heating.
(Writing in Melbourne by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)