A Russian missile hit downtown Cherniguiv in northern Ukraine on Saturday, killing at least seven people and injuring 110, according to local authorities, shortly after a summit meeting between Vladimir Putin and his generals, not far from the Ukrainian border.
The Russian army also claimed to have “eliminated” 150 Ukrainian soldiers who were trying to cross the Dnieper River, a front line in southern Ukraine, where Kiev is trying to break through Moscow’s defenses.
“A Russian missile hit right in the city center, in our Cherniguiv,” Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky lamented on Telegram. “A square, the polytechnic university, a theatre. An ordinary Saturday, which Russia has turned into a day of pain and loss. There are dead, there are injured,” he added.
At least seven people were killed and 110 others injured in the Russian strike, according to a report released Saturday by the acting mayor of the city.
“One hundred and seventeen people were affected in the terrorist attack in downtown Cherniguiv. Seven of them died,” Oleksandre Lomako said on Telegram.
The bombardment took people by surprise in a city spared in recent months from large-scale attacks after being briefly surrounded by Russian forces at the start of the invasion in February 2022.
“I’m still a bit in shock because it hadn’t happened for a long time,” said Iryna, a 24-year-old waitress.
“We thought a balcony had collapsed,” she said. But when we came out, our window was broken, there was smoke, people running around crying or moaning.
“We are at war, unfortunately it’s not over,” said Viktoria, a cafe manager.
The bombing came after a string of military successes claimed by Kiev this week and as the United States on Friday approved Denmark and the Netherlands to send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.
It also happened when Volodymyr Zelensky was visiting Sweden, an ally of kyiv which wants to join NATO despite virulent opposition from Moscow.
Discussions with Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson focus on “cooperation in terms of defense”, in particular the possible new delivery of Swedish infantry fighting vehicles CV-90s, detailed the Ukrainian president on Telegram.
Putin with his generals
The city of Cherniguiv was bombed shortly after a meeting, announced Saturday morning by the Kremlin, between Vladimir Putin and the generals in charge of the military operation in Ukraine in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, not far from the Ukrainian border.
Russian authorities did not say when the meeting took place, but footage released by state media suggests it was held overnight in the southern city.
“The head of state listened to reports from Russian Armed Forces Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov, sector commanders and other officials,” the Kremlin said in a statement.
Operational center of the Russian intervention in Ukraine, Rostov-on-the-Don had been the theater at the end of June of the spectacular mutiny of the mercenaries of Wagner, who had briefly seized the headquarters of the army in the city.
General Gerasimov has rarely been seen in public since that failed rebellion. As for Vladimir Putin, he rarely goes to areas close to the fighting in Ukraine.
Drone attacks foiled
On Saturday, the two camps also assured that they had repelled drone attacks, which are increasing in a period when Ukraine is in the midst of a counter-offensive to recover all of its territory under Russian control.
The Russian army thus claimed to have foiled an attack against a military airfield in the Novgorod region, in northwestern Russia, and to have neutralized another drone which targeted Moscow and its region.
“Air Defense Forces […] suppressed it and, after losing control, it crashed in a deserted area near Putilkovo”, a locality in the northwestern suburbs of Moscow, the army said.
For their part, the Ukrainian forces announced that they had destroyed “fifteen Russian drones” overnight, “launched from the Kursk region”, bordering Ukraine.
The Russian army also claimed on Saturday to have foiled an attack by Kiev forces in Crimea – the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014 -, carried out according to the Russian army “with an anti-aircraft missile from the S-200 air defense system”.