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Russian missile attack kills 7 in northern Ukrainian city as Zelenskyy visits NATO candidate Sweden

A view shows a site of a Russian missile strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Chernihiv, Ukraine, on Aug. 19, 2023.
Valentyn Ogirenko | Reuters

A missile attack in the center of a northern Ukrainian city killed seven people and wounded scores of others on Saturday, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy traveled to Sweden, his first visit to the country since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year.

The dead in the daytime strike on the northern city of Chernihiv included a 6-year-old girl, while 12 children were among the 117 wounded, acting mayor Oleksandr Lomako said.

Zelenskyy condemned the attack, which he said hit buildings including a theater and a university.

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“This is what a neighborhood with a terrorist state is, this is what we unite the whole world against. A Russian missile hit right in the center of the city, in our Chernihiv,” he wrote on Telegram. “A square, the polytechnic university, a theater. An ordinary Saturday, which Russia turned into a day of pain and loss.”

In Sweden, Zelenskyy met officials at Harpsund, the prime minister’s official summertime residence, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) west of Stockholm. He will also meet Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia at a palace in the area.

At a joint news conference, Zelenskyy and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson announced that the two countries agreed to strengthen cooperation on production, training and servicing of the Swedish CV-90 infantry fighting vehicles.

As part of the agreement, Zelenskyy said, Swedish CV-90 vehicles will begin production in Ukraine. He also stressed the importance of supplying Ukraine with modern aircraft.

“We do not have superiority in the air, and we do not 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, adding that “appropriate actions” would be taken in the following weeks to “open up the possibility of obtaining the appropriate aircraft.”

“I will also have negotiations with several other states tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. I am confident that we, together with our partners, will do everything and achieve the appropriate result in the sky so that the Russians do not have an advantage there,” he said.

Kristersson expressed his condolences to Zelenskyy for the attack in Chernihiv. He called the Russian missile strike an “act of brutality” which “only reinforces the need for us to stand with you in all your struggles.”

Sweden abandoned its longstanding policy of military nonalignment to support Ukraine with weapons and other aid in the war against Russia. The government says Sweden has provided 20 billion kronor (1.7 billion euros) in military support to Ukraine. Sweden also applied for NATO membership but is still waiting to join the alliance.

In Russia, President Vladimir Putin visited top military officials in the city of Rostov-on-Don near the Ukrainian border.

The Kremlin said that Putin listened to reports from Valery Gerasimov, the commander in charge of Moscow’s operations in Ukraine, and other top military brass at the headquarters of Russia’s Southern Military District.

The exact timings of his visit were not confirmed, but state media published video footage that appeared to be filmed at night, showing Gerasimov greeting Putin and leading him into a building. The meeting itself was held behind closed doors.

It was Putin’s first visit to Rostov-on-Don since the Wagner mercenary group ‘s attempted mutiny in June, when the group’s fighters briefly took control of the city.

During June’s short-lived revolt, Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin repeatedly denounced Gerasimov, who serves as chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces, and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu for denying supplies to his fighters in Ukraine.

Prigozhin claimed that the uprising was not aimed at Putin but at removing Gerasimov and other top brass who he accused of mismanaging the war in Ukraine.

Kyiv this week has claimed counteroffensive gains on the southeastern front, regaining control of the village of Urozhaine in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region on Wednesday.

The leader of the Russian battalion fighting to maintain control of Urozhaine called for “freezing the front” on Thursday, saying his troops “cannot win” against Ukraine.

“Can we bring down Ukraine militarily? Now and in the near future, no,” Alexander Khodakovsky said in a video posted to Telegram.

Overnight into Saturday, Ukraine’s air force said it shot down 15 out of 17 Russian drones targeting northern, central and western regions.

The deputy governor of the western Khmelnytskyi region, Serhii Tiurin, said two people were wounded and dozens of buildings damaged by an attack.

In the northwestern Zhytomyr region, a Russian drone attack targeted an infrastructure facility and caused a fire, but no casualties were reported, said Gov. Vitalii Bunechko.

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