An eye witness sitting only a few hundred yards from a missile strike in the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv has reportedly told Newsweek how she heard the moment of impact.
Ukrainian authorities have said that at least seven people were killed, including a 6-year-old girl, whose mother was seriously wounded. Among the 110 people injured were another 11 children and 10 police officers, Ukraine’s interior ministry said.
The missile struck the roof of the Taras Shevchenko Chernihiv Regional Academic Music and Drama Theatre as people were on their way to church to celebrate a religious holiday.
Emma Mateo, an English sociologist who is in Ukraine on a field trip, said she was conducting an interview for her research in a café less than 500 yards from the theater when she heard an air raid siren.
“Before we could react, there was a loud explosion but it was not deafening. There was the whistle, the explosion and then car sirens started going off,” she told Newsweek.
She said she ran into the café to shelter. After about half an hour, she got the all-clear to leave and as she walked back to her accommodation, she saw the windows of many buildings had been blown out as glass was being swept up.
“In the immediate aftermath, people were distressed and shaken,” she said, although people were generally calm. “Chernihiv was heavily bombarded for about 38 days at the start of the full-scale invasion so most of the people here have experienced shelling before even if they managed to escape the city during the blockade,” she added.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who was on a working visit to Sweden, wrote on Telegram that a regular Saturday “turned into a day of pain and loss caused by Russia.” Zelensky said the missile strike hit the city’s central square, polytechnic institute and theater. “Here’s what it means to be neighbors with a terrorist state,” he added.
The theater, named after a poet and painter revered in Ukraine, was founded in 1926 and moved to its current site in 1959. Footage on social media shows the aftermath of the strike.
Video accompanying Zelensky’s post showed scattered debris and damaged cars. Another photograph on social media showed a body on the ground next to a puddle of blood.
“This blow is a great tragedy for Chernihiv,” read the Facebook post of the city’s mayor Oleksandr Lomako, whom Newsweek has contacted for comment.
“This is another military crime of Russia against Ukraine. This is another testimony that Russia is a terrorist state,” he wrote. Lomako confirmed to the BBC that the area was being used for an exhibition of Ukrainian drone producers, although he did not list it as a motive for the attack.
Maria Berlinska, director of Air Reconnaissance Support Center, who identified herself as an organizer of the event, wrote in a Facebook post that the location of the meeting was only known to participants a few hours before it began.
She said it was “not a business exhibition” but a “closed meeting of engineers, military and volunteers” about military technologies for the front.
Denise Brown, the current head of the United Nations in Ukraine, described the strike as “heinous” in a statement and condemned the “repeated pattern of Russian strikes on populated areas of Ukraine.”