Ukraine live briefing: Russian strike on theater in Chernihiv kills seven, injures more than 100, Ukraine says

Video released by President Zelensky’s office shows the aftermath of the strike on a theater in Chernihiv. Editor’s note: The video has no audio. (Video: Volodymyr Zelensky via Storyful)

A strike on a theater in the northern city of Chernihiv killed at least seven people, including a 6-year-old child, and injured at least 117, the city’s acting mayor said Saturday. The attack hit the center of the city, which lies around 90 miles north of the capital Kyiv, and “probably” involved a ballistic missile, the regional governor said. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of turning “an ordinary Saturday … into a day of pain and loss.”

Zelensky is visiting Sweden for meetings with the country’s leaders, including Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and King Carl XVI — and expressed his “full support” for Sweden’s bid for NATO membership. Sweden applied to join the military alliance as a direct result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, although its accession has not been ratified by Turkey and Hungary.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry shared footage of firefighters in Chernihiv working on a flattened rooftop, while a Zelensky posted a separate video of damaged cars and debris on the streets. Twelve children were among the injured, the ministry said. Daytime attacks are rare for a central Ukrainian city far from the front lines. Chernihiv was besieged by Russian troops for weeks early in the war, with more than half the city’s population fleeing — but Ukrainian troops later managed to regain complete control.

The venue reportedly hosted a gathering for drone demonstrations on Saturday. Mariya Berlinska, an activist, said she took part in the event, which had been approved by the local authorities, but said it was stopped as soon as the air raid sirens rang out. “Participants were told several time about the need to take shelter,” Berlinska wrote on Facebook. “Unfortunately, some people still went outside.”

The United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine condemned the attack. “It is heinous to attack the main square of a large city, in the morning, while people are out walking, some going to the church to celebrate a religious day for many Ukrainians,” Denise Brown said in a statement.

Ukraine and neighboring Romania signed an agreement Friday to work together on grain exports, following Russia’s departure last month from the U.N.-backed grain deal, which had allowed for the safe wartime transport of foodstuffs over the Black Sea. Ukraine is one of the world’s major grain producers, and its exports play a vital role in global food security.

Zelensky and Kristersson discussed Ukraine’s desire for Gripen fighter jets from Sweden, Zelensky said, which Sweden agreed earlier this summer to allow Ukrainian pilots to test. The two leaders also signed an agreement to manufacture Swedish-provided CV-90 infantry fighting vehicles in Ukraine. On Telegram, Zelensky expressed his thanks to Sweden “for supporting our struggle for freedom and independence.”

It is “premature to make assessments about the overall success” of Kyiv’s counteroffensive, the Institute for the Study of War said a report Friday, responding after people familiar with a classified forecast from the U.S. intelligence community told The Post that Ukraine would fail in its objective of severing Russia’s land bridge to Crimea in this year’s push. The ISW said it continues to assess that “the overall degradation of the Russian defensive line creates opportunities for any Ukrainian breakthrough to be potentially operationally significant.”

Most of the front line in Ukraine “has remained static” over the past week, according to the British Defense Ministry’s intelligence update Saturday. Both Russian and Ukrainian forces face a similar challenge of “attempting to defeat well-entrenched forces while having limited uncommitted forces to open new assaults,” the ministry wrote.

The United States will approve the transfer of F-16 fighter jets from Denmark and the Netherlands to Ukraine once pilot training is complete, national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Friday. He said the process was “formalized” in a letter from Secretary of State Antony Blinken to his European counterparts and is a “natural extension” of Biden’s announcement in May that the United States would not block the transfer of the jets. Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra described the move as “a major milestone for Ukraine to defend its people and its country” on social media.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov defended Moscow’s nuclear weapons, claiming they are for security purposes only in an interview published on the Foreign Ministry website Saturday. “Possessing nuclear weapons is for today the only possible response to certain significant external national security threats,” he said. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said last month that Russia would have to use nuclear weapons if Kyiv’s counteroffensive were successful, Reuters reported.

Russia added a former Putin adviser to its list of “foreign agents,” state-owned news agency Tass reported. The designation was expanded in recent years to apply to anyone who is openly critical of the authorities or who is accused of receiving payments or donations from abroad. Andrey Illarionov, who is based outside the country, resigned from his position as Putin’s top economic adviser in 2005, after stating publicly that Russia “is no longer a democratic country.”

Canada is imposing sanctions on 15 Russian individuals and three entities over human rights abuses, the foreign ministry announced Friday. The individuals include senior Russian officials and federally funded courts which have been “directly involved in human rights abuses against opposition leaders” including Alexei Navalny, the statement said.

A court in Russia on Friday ordered the dissolution of the Sakharov Center, a human rights group that ran a museum and cultural space in Moscow named after Nobel Peace laureate and Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov. “Everything that is happening today is the exact opposite of what Sakharov fought for,” Sergei Lukashevsky, the center’s director, said in a private Facebook post.

The Biden administration will extend protected status for Ukrainians in the United States through April 19, 2025, due to “ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions in Ukraine that prevent individuals from safely returning,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.

Inside the Russian effort to build 6,000 attack drones with Iran’s help: A billion-dollar weapons deal with Iran has come to life at a facility 500 miles east of Moscow as Russia strives to make 6,000 drones by the summer of 2025. If the plan succeeds, the new drone factory could thwart Ukraine’s counteroffensive and significantly advance Moscow’s position in the drone arms race that is remaking modern warfare, Dalton Bennett and Mary Ilyushina write.

Documents leaked from the program and obtained by The Washington Post provide new information about the efforts of two self-proclaimed enemies of the United States to expand the Kremlin’s capabilities.

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