By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — At least seven people, including a child, were killed and 129 were wounded in a Russian missile strike on the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv on August 19, Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said, while President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said a “terrorist state” had carried out the attack and caused “a day of pain and loss.”
Oleksandr Lomako, acting mayor of Chernihiv, said the attack was another blow to the city.
“This is another war crime by Russia against Ukraine. The blood of all innocent children and people is on the hands of Russia. We will not forgive this. Never,” Lomako said on Telegram, adding that three days of mourning would be observed on August 19-21 under a decree he signed.
Zelenskiy, who is on a visit to Sweden, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, “Russian missile hit the heart of Chernihiv. A square, a university, and a theater.” Zelenskiy also posted a video of the purported place of the attack.
“Russia turned an ordinary Saturday into a day of pain and loss,” said Zelenskiy.
“This is what it means to live next to a terrorist state,” he said, adding, “I urge the world to stand up to Russian terror.”
Regional Governor Vyacheslav Chaus said on Telegram that the attack was “probably a ballistic missile.”
Separately, the Interior Ministry said a 6-year-old boy was killed and 15 other children were among the wounded by the missile, which struck Chernihiv’s Drama Theater. The mother of the boy killed in the attack was in serious condition, authorities said.
Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said most of the victims were in vehicles or were crossing the street on foot. The people inside the theater reached a shelter in time after the air-raid alert was announced, he said.
The UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine condemned the missile attack as “heinous” and called on Moscow to end strikes on populated areas.
“It is heinous to attack the main square of a large city, in the morning, while people are out walking, some going to church to celebrate a religious day for many Ukrainians,” said Denise Brown in a statement.
“I condemn this repeated pattern of Russian strikes on populated areas of Ukraine, causing deaths, massive destruction, and soaring humanitarian needs.”
Earlier on August 19, the Ukrainian military said that the air defense shot down 15 out of 17 Iranian Shahed drones that Russia used in its latest overnight attack on Ukraine.
“The air force in cooperation with the air defense and other components of the Defense Forces of Ukraine destroyed 15 enemy drones,” the military said in its daily report, adding that the attacks targeted the eastern, northern, and western parts of Ukraine.
Russia’s Defense Ministry, meanwhile, said on August 19 that its air-defense systems repelled a Ukrainian drone attack on a military airfield in Novgorod region located northwest of Moscow, but the attack resulted in a damaged Russian warplane.
There were no casualties in what the ministry’s statement called “a terrorist attack,” but a fire that broke out on the airfield causing damage to one of the warplanes parked there.
The information could not be independently verified.
The ministry earlier claimed that it had downed a Ukrainian missile over Moscow-occupied Crimea overnight.
On the diplomatic field, Zelenskiy and his wife, Olena, traveled to Sweden for talks on defense cooperation.
Zelenskiy visited Sweden with his wife, Olena, for talks on defense cooperation.
He announced that he and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson had agreed on 10 points, including cooperation on the production of powerful CV-90 combat armored vehicles in Ukraine, joint training on equipment provided by Sweden, and further steps to transfer Gripen fighter aircraft to Ukraine.
“I am grateful to Sweden for its firm and consistent support. Together, we protect life, freedom, and our common values.” Zelenskiy said at the conclusion of his visit to Sweden, which has applied for NATO membership.
Kristersson said he was proud to have had the honor to welcome Zelenskiy.
“I highly appreciate our close contacts and cooperation. Sweden’s support for Ukraine’s freedom, sovereignty and territorial integrity will continue for as long as it takes,” Kristersson said on X.
Sweden, which abandoned its longstanding policy of military nonalignment to support Ukraine after Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022, is part of a coalition of 11 Western countries together with Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, and the United Kingdom that pledged last month to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s.
On the battlefield, Ukrainian forces continue to advance in the areas near the southern cities of Melitopol and Berdyansk, the military said on August 19, adding that during the day Ukrainian forces fought a total of 26 clashes along the front line.
The General Staff’s evening summary said Russian forces carried out five missile and 44 air strikes and 17 attacks from rocket salvo systems on troop positions and populated areas.
The push toward the Russian-occupied strategic city of Melitopol is part of Ukrainian forces’ attempt to cut off Russia’s land bridge to Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
It comes as a U.S. intelligence report quoted by The Washington Post assessed that Ukrainian forces do not appear likely to reach and retake Melitopol during the ongoing counteroffensive.
Russia controls nearly a fifth of Ukraine, including the Crimean Peninsula, most of the Luhansk region, and large tracts of the regions of Donetsk, Zaporizhzhya, and Kherson.
The Russia-installed head of the military in Kharkiv, Vitaly Ganchev, said on Russian television on August 19 that the number of communities Russia controls in the Kharkiv region had grown by five and now totals 33.
“The front line is slowly moving toward Kharkiv. Our troops are approaching the suburbs of Kupyansk,” he said.
It is not possible for RFE/RL to verify either side’s claims of battlefield success.