KIEV — The Russian missile attack on the Ukrainian city of Chernihiv this weekend not only killed seven people and injured 120, but also marked a second hit for the Kremlin by stoking internal anger against manufacturers of drones, accused of turning the city into a target with a security mistake.
On a beautiful holiday morning, as Ukrainians were returning from church on Saturday after celebrating the Apple Festival of the Savior – an Orthodox church harvest festival – a Russian Iskander-type ballistic missile exploded overhead of the theater in the center of Chernihiv, a city north of Kiev, just 70 kilometers from the border with Russia.
The prosecutor’s office opened a war crime investigation that led to a mass murder.
Online commentators, however, are already delivering guilty verdicts on an unexpected group of former national heroes, blaming not just Russia, but also Ukrainian drone producers and military volunteers who staged and advertised an event on the same day. to the theater which was eventually targeted, with the help of the local military administration.
“Is Russia responsible for striking the Chernihiv theater and killing civilians there? Of course. But didn’t the organizers have to turn their heads and think that such an event is very likely to become a target for Russian missiles? Especially if they constantly say that drones are a weapon of victory? It’s a matter of responsibility,” said Sergiy Fursa, deputy director of Dragon Capital, an investment firm, in a Facebook post.
Ukrainian military volunteer Roman Sinicyn intervened, adding that by organizing their event in the city center so close to Russia, Ukrainian military producers, soldiers and volunteers, as well as the local military administration, showed a supreme carelessness. “However, we should not put all the blame on a specific and effective voluntary organization. The event was approved by officials, not volunteers. And quite specific representatives of ministries, special services and the army were aware of the event,” Sinicyn said.
Maria Berlinska and Lyuba Shypovych of Dignitas Fund, a Ukrainian military volunteer organization that pushed for systemic changes in Ukraine’s drone production and supply industry as well as the training of drone operators, are now facing most of the online hatred of Ukrainians.
The Dignitas Fund was among the organizers of the ‘Angry Birds’ event, alongside the Chernihiv Regional Military Administration and Ukraine’s Brave 1 Defense Innovation Cluster.
Event organizers publicly announced the time and date of the meeting and what city it was in, but only revealed the exact location to attendees about four hours before it began.
Someone then leaked this information to the Russians or Russia intercepted the communication. Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported that Russian forces were targeting a military meeting and even issued an invitation with detailed maximum security measures for attendees who were not supposed to wear their military uniforms.
Shypovych and Berlinska are declining to comment to the media as they are now helping to investigate the event, Shypovych told POLITICO.
According to the two volunteers’ social media posts, those attending the event survived the attack, as most of them were able to escape to shelter. Security services are currently investigating the information leak that triggered the launch of the Russian missile, Shypovych wrote.
After the wave of online hate, many members of the Ukrainian military, NGOs and the cultural sphere wrote articles in support of Berlinska, who was a vocal critic of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense and who raised awareness Initial neglect by Ukrainian authorities of the crucial role military drones should play in defending Ukraine from Russian invasion.
“Believe me, I would like to die instead of these people,” Berlinska said in a statement.