A Russian missile attack in the center of a northern Ukrainian city on Saturday killed seven people and injured over a hundred others, including children, Ukrainian officials said.
The attack in Chernihiv came as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in Sweden on his first foreign trip since attending a NATO summit in Lithuania last month.
Images of the aftermath showed badly damaged buildings, including a theater whose roof was blown off, shredded cars and survivors walking among the rubble in blood-stained clothing. A six-year-old girl was among the dead in the daytime attack, while 15 children were among the 129 injured, said Ukraine's Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko.
The square in front of the theater building was buzzing with life, and people were returning from the church with baskets of consecrated apples in their hands after celebrating the Savior's Apple Festival, Klymenko said. Debris from the theater roof and shattered glass from the windows of surrounding cars and restaurants littered the square after the strike.
A team from CBS News was headed toward the city center when the missile struck.
“I saw sparks and fire, and we started falling, the glass shattered,” Lilia told CBS News. “Everyone was screaming.”
The first responders rushing to the scene of the accident were shocked, as were local residents. Red Cross worker Andriy Yashchenko told CBS News the attack surprised everyone because Chernihiv was sparedfor much of this year.
“Many people were injured and we tried to save lives,” Yashchenko said. “And it's bad because a lot of people died. And there is a lot of bleeding.”
The strike happened during a meeting of drone manufacturers and air reconnaissance schools, organizer Mariia Berlinska confirmed. Berlinska said that the event had been officially arranged in advance with both the local authorities and the venue. Chernihiv City Council denied approving the event or issuing permits.
Zelenskyy said the attack showed that Russia is a “terrorist state” and that the world must unite against it.
“A Russian missile hit the heart of the city, in our Chernihiv,” he wrote on Telegram. “A square, the Polytechnic University, a theatre. An ordinary Saturday that Russia turned into a day of pain and loss.”
Chernihiv was surrounded by Russian forces early in the war, but these retreated after Ukrainian forces retook control of areas north of Kiev in April last year.
Zelenskyi arrived in Sweden on Saturday for an unannounced visit – his first visit to the Scandinavian country since the start of the full-scale invasion. The war prompted Sweden to abandon its longstanding policy of military non-alignment, to provide arms to Ukraine and to bid for NATO membership, although the country is still waiting to join the alliance.
At a joint press conference, Zelenskyy and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson announced that the two countries had agreed to cooperate on the production, training and maintenance of Swedish CV90 infantry fighting vehicles. Zelenskyy said Ukraine will start producing the vehicles as part of the deal.
He also encouraged Kristersson to “share” the Swedish Gripen fighter jet with Ukraine.
“We don't have air superiority and we don't have modern aircraft. In reality, the Swedish Gripen is the pride of your country, and I believe that the prime minister could share this pride with Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said.
Sweden has said it will allow Ukrainian pilots to test the Gripen planes, but has so far ruled out giving any to Kiev.
Zelenskyy said that “appropriate measures” would be taken in the coming weeks to help Ukraine obtain “appropriate aircraft”.
“Tomorrow and the day after tomorrow I will also be conducting negotiations with several other states. I am confident that together with our partners we will do everything and achieve the appropriate result in the sky so that the Russians do not have an advantage there.” ” he said.
Denmark and the Netherlands said on Friday that the United States had given the countries their approval to supply U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.
Sweden says it has provided 1.7 billion euros in military support to Ukraine, including Archer artillery units, Leopard 2 tanks and CV90 armored vehicles.
Zelenskyi met with Kristersson and other Swedish officials at Harpsund, the prime minister's official summer residence, about 75 miles west of Stockholm. He and First Lady Olena Zelenska later met Sweden's King Carl XVI. Gustaf and Queen Silvia at a palace in the area.
Kristersson expressed his condolences to Zelenskyy for the Chernihiv attack. He called the Russian missile attack an “act of brutality” that “only reinforces the need for us to stand with you in all your struggles.”
On Saturday night, the Ukrainian Air Force announced that it shot down 15 of 17 Russian drones targeting northern, central and western regions.
Deputy governor of western Khmelnytskyi region Serhii Tiurin said the attack injured two people and damaged dozens of buildings.
In the northwestern Zhytomyr region, a Russian drone strike targeted an infrastructure facility and caused a fire, but no casualties were reported, Governor Vitalii Bunechko said.