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Ukraine war: Zelenskyy condemns Chernihiv strike, Putin meets generals, F-16s on the way

An injured man walks in Krasna square with the theatre in the background, after a Russian attack, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023. in Chernihiv, Uk
An injured man walks in Krasna square with the theatre in the background, after a Russian attack, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023. in Chernihiv, Uk Copyright AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
Copyright AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
By Euronews with AFP
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The latest developments from the war in Ukraine.

At least seven people are dead and more than 125 others injured after a Russian missile strike on a theatre in the northern Ukraine city of Chernihiv.  A number of children are among the casualties, officials say.

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The attack happened as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in Sweden on his first foreign trip since attending a NATO summit in Lithuania last month.

Images of the aftermath showed badly damaged buildings including a theatre with its roof blown away, mangled cars and survivors walking amid the debris with bloodstained clothes. The dead in the daytime strike included a 6-year-old girl, while 15 children were among the 129 wounded, Ukraine's Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said.

The square in front of the theater building had been bustling with life, with people returning from church after celebrating the Apple Feast of the Savior religious holiday, baskets of consecrated apples in hand, Klymenko said. Following the strike, debris from the theater roof littered the square, along with shattered glass from the windows of nearby cars and restaurants.

The strike hit the theatre during a gathering of drone manufacturers and aerial reconnaissance training schools, organiser Mariia Berlinska confirmed. Berlinska said that the event was officially agreed in advance with both the local authorities and the venue. 

The Chernihiv City Council denied that they had approved the event or issued any permits.

Zelenskyy said the attack showed Russia was a “terrorist state" and that the world must unite against it.

"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.”

Putin meets generals in southern Russia

Vladimir Putin has met with  the generals in charge of Russia's military operation in Ukraine at a meeting in Rostov-on-Don, in southern Russia, the Kremlin announced on Saturday morning.

The authorities did not specify when this meeting took place, but images broadcast by the state media suggest that it was held during the night.

"Vladimir Putin held a meeting at the headquarters of the special military operation in Rostov-on-Don," the Kremlin said in a statement. "The head of state listened to reports from the chief of staff of the Russian armed forces, Valery Gerasimov, sector commanders and other officials".

The RIA Novosti news agency broadcast a video of the Russian President dressed in a suit and getting out of a jeep in the dark before being greeted by General Guérassimov.

Ukraine says it intercepted Russian drone attack

Ukraine's military announced on Saturday morning that it had destroyed "15 Russian drones" overnight.

Russian forces "attacked from the north" with Shahed drones, the Ukrainian army wrote on Telegram. "A total of 17 attack drones were launched from the Kursk region." It did not specify what had happened to the two remaining drones.

Ukrainian anti-aircraft defence was activated "in the northern and central regions, as well as in the west" of the country, it added.

Both sides in the conflict, which began in February 2022, have recently reported regular drone incursions by air and sea, at a time when Ukraine is in the midst of a counter-offensive to reclaim its Russian-controlled territory.

Moscow has stepped up its attacks on Ukraine's Black Sea and Danube port infrastructure since the end of an agreement that allowed Ukrainian grain exports.

On Friday, Russia said it had destroyed Ukrainian drones targeting Moscow and its Black Sea fleet.

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US greenlights Dutch and Danish F-16 transfers

The United States announced on Friday that it had given the green light for Denmark and the Netherlands to send American F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, once Ukrainian pilots have been trained – a development that the Ukrainian defence minister described as "great news".

A spokesman for the US State Department said that Denmark and the Netherlands had received "formal assurances" on the subject.

"In this way, Ukraine will be able to take full advantage of its new capabilities as soon as the first group of pilots has completed its training. The F-16s will contribute to Ukraine's defence and deterrence capabilities," added the spokesman.

Since the start of the Russian invasion, Kyiv has been tirelessly calling for Western aircraft to fight Moscow's forces, which are far superior at this stage.

The United States, for its part, has strict rules on the resale or transfer of American military equipment by allies.

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It is not yet known when the Ukrainian pilots will complete their training.

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