Seven people dead, including a child, in 'heinous' Russian missile strike on Ukrainian city of Chernihiv
A Russian missile strike on Ukraine's northern city of Chernihiv killed seven people, including a 6-year-old girl, in what the UN called a "heinous" attack hours after Ukraine shot down 15 Iranian-made drones used by Russia in an assault on Kyiv.
Over 100 people were also wounded in the strike.
"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, the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine.
She was referring to the Orthodox holiday of the Transfiguration of the Lord which saw some in Chernihiv attending church services in the morning.
"I condemn this repeated pattern of Russian strikes on populated areas of Ukraine... Attacks directed against civilians or civilian objects are strictly prohibited under international humanitarian law," she added.
Chernihiv, 150 kilometres (90 miles) north of Kyiv towards Belarus, has been largely spared from major attacks since the first months of Russia's invasion as fierce fighting rages in the east and south.
The Russian army marched through the city when it invaded Ukraine through Belarus in February 2022, before being repelled by Kyiv's forces.
Saturday's strike came after Putin held talks with top Russian generals in a rare trip to operational hub Rostov-on-Don and as his Ukrainian nemesis, Volodymyr Zelensky, visited Sweden for talks with Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson.
OMG, not this again. Russia hit Chernihiv Drama theater in the city center with Iskander missile. 7 people killed, including a 6-year-old girl. 90 others are injured, among them are 10 police officers and 12 children. The target appears to have been a drone exhibition. pic.twitter.com/6AniqfRjn1— Maria Avdeeva (@maria_avdv) August 19, 2023
"As of 3:25 pm (1225 GMT), 117 people were injured in the terrorist attack on the centre of Chernihiv, seven of them died," Oleksandr Lomako, Chernihiv's acting mayor, said on Telegram.
Viacheslav Chaus, head of the Chernihiv region's military administration, said on Telegram that a child was among the dead.
Zelensky said the attack hit a square that houses a "polytechnic university, a theatre".
"An ordinary Saturday, which Russia turned into a day of pain and loss," he said after his arrival in Sweden.
AFP reporters saw fire trucks outside the Taras Shevchenko Drama Theatre and Music Academy, which suffered some damage.
"There was smoke, screams, people were running, crying, moaning. We ran to the shelter when everything happened and sat there," Iryna, a 24-year-old bartender in Chernihiv, told AFP.
"I'm still a little in shock, because this hasn't happened in a long time, everyone has relaxed a little. But now we will probably be going down to the shelter."
Ukraine's culture ministry said the centre of Chernihiv, a city with a thousand-year history, is a candidate for nomination to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
"Russia, as a terrorist country, is systematically destroying Ukraine's cultural heritage," it added in a statement.