Russian missile attack kills 7 in northern Ukrainian city

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — 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.

As Zelenskyy arrived in Sweden, a Russian missile strike killed seven people and wounded 90 others in the city center of Chernihiv, the regional capital of the northern Ukrainian province of the same name, Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said. A 6-year-old girl was among the dead, while the wounded included 12 children.

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

“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.”

The Swedish government said Zelenskyy will meet 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.

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, including Archer artillery units, Leopard 2 tanks, CV-90 infantry fighting vehicles, grenade launchers, anti-tank weapons, mine-clearing equipment and ammunition. 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.