A Russian missile slammed into the center of Chernihiv in northern Ukraine on Saturday, killing at least seven people and injuring more than 100, including 12 children, Ukrainian officials said.
What appeared to be a missile tore through the main square just before noon, as people were leaving church where they were celebrating a holy day, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry said.
“A Russian missile hit the heart of Chernihiv,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a statement. “A square, a university and a theater. Russia turned an ordinary Saturday into a day of pain and loss.”
Ukrainian officials and emergency services released graphic videos of the initial blast in the attack and the devastating aftermath.Victims could be seen sprawled in the square, surrounded by pools of blood. The Interior Ministry said a search-and-rescue operation was underway in the surrounding area.
The youngest known victim was a 6-year-old girl who died at a local hospital, local officials said.
Mr. Zelensky said the deadly bombardment should remind the world that it needs to stand united against “Russian terror,” adding: “For life to win, Russia must lose this war.”
The strike in Chernihiv, an elegant city that was battered by Russian forces during a siege in the first months of the war that ultimately failed, comes as Ukrainian forces are making incremental gains against entrenched Russian forces in the south of the country in their slow moving counteroffensive.
Those advances are being earned through bloody battles across fields littered with mines and backed by deeply dug-in Russian forces. At the same time, Kyiv has stepped up its assaults on Russian military targets behind the front lines, including some inside Russia.
On Saturday, a Ukrainian drone reached a Russian air base hundreds of miles from the Ukrainian border in the Novgorod region, sparking a fire and damaging one aircraft, the Russian Ministry of Defense said in a statement.
The Russian military said “a copter-type UAV,” or unmanned aerial vehicle, was used to target the base and claimed to have shot it down. But as a result of the attack, the ministry said, “a fire broke out in the aircraft parking lot” and one plane was damaged. There were no casualties, the ministry said.
The Ukrainian Air Force, in a statement on Telegram, celebrated the attack on the airfield, called Soltsy, home to a fleet of Russian bombers that are frequently used to carry out strikes aimed at Ukrainian towns and cities.
The Kremlin has sought to play down the significance of Ukrainian attacks inside Russia, seeking to maintain a sense of normalcy and to reassure Russians that the war is going according to plan. President Vladimir V. Putin, for his part, has stepped up his efforts to project authority over a military campaign that has been marked by brutal tactics, setbacks and internal divisions.
The Kremlin said Mr. Putin traveled to the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don to meet with military commanders, in his first publicized visit to the military hub since it was seized in June in a short-lived rebellion led by the Wagner mercenary chief, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin.
Rostov-on-Don is home to the headquarters of Russia’s Southern Military District, a strategic command center for Mr. Putin’s war in Ukraine. Mr. Prigozhin briefly took control of the headquarters before his fighters began advancing toward Moscow.
The Kremlin did not say when Mr. Putin visited the city, where he met with the chief of the Russian military, Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov. General Gerasimov and Sergei K. Shoigu, the Russian defense minister, were the primary targets of criticism from Mr. Prigozhin in the lead-up to to the uprising, which plunged the country into crisis and raised questions about Mr. Putin’s leadership.
The visit, which appeared to take place at night, comes as Mr. Putin continues an active schedule of public appearances and continues to signal that he is sticking by his top generals. At the same time, the general seen as closest to Mr. Prigozhin, Gen. Sergei Surovikin, still has not been seen in public since the mutiny.
After abruptly ending the uprising, Wagner forces left Rostov-on-Don to the applause of some onlookers, suggesting that Mr. Prigozhin and his Wagner forces maintained at least some popular support there.
Since then, Mr. Prigozhin’s status has been shrouded in mystery. He has apparently been in Belarus and was recently still able to travel to Russia — last month, unverified images appeared to show him meeting with African leaders in St. Petersburg during a summit hosted by Mr. Putin. But his extensive media holdings, including a troll farm that figured prominently in Russia’s interference in the U.S. presidential election in 2016, have largely been taken apart and state media has depicted him as a thug. He has also toned down his criticism of Russia’s top military leaders.
Here’s what else is happening in the war:
Zelensky Visit: Mr. Zelensky arrived on Saturday in Sweden, where he said in a statement that he would continue to work on bilateral cooperation, “in particular in the defense industry, the European integration of Ukraine and common security in the Euro-Atlantic space.”
He added that Ukraine supported Sweden “on its way into NATO.” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, an alliance member that had been blocking Sweden’s entry, expressed support in July for the Nordic country’s membership, but said that it still needed to take more steps to earn the support of the Turkish Parliament.
Camp David Summit: In his summit with the leaders of Japan and South Korea, President Biden commended Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan for his country’s support of Ukraine. “Imagine if we had done nothing?” the president said. If the world had not come to Kyiv’s aid, Mr. Biden added, hinting at U.S. officials’ concern about China taking military action against Taiwan, “What signal would that send to China?”
Kerch Bridge Attack: The head of Ukraine’s security services revealed details of the country’s first successful attack on the only bridge linking occupied Crimea with Russia, saying that its operatives loaded a truck with 21 tons of explosives wrapped in packing film to detonate the vehicle in the middle of the bridge.
Vasyl Malyuk, the head of Ukraine’s Security Service, known as the SBU, released photos of preparations for the attack on Oct. 8, 2022, as well as details to the Ukrainian media outlet, New Voice, about how Ukraine managed to evade Russia’s defenses. Mr. Malyuk said the Ukrainians used an explosive commonly referred to as RDX, which is more powerful than TNT. The information was later released on a Telegram channel run by the Ministry of Defense.
Paul Sonne contributed reporting from Berlin, and Victoria Kim from Seoul.