Dozens feared dead after Russia bombs Ukrainian school

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More than 60 people were feared dead on Sunday after Russia bombed a school where about 90 people were sheltering in its basement, Ukrainian officials said.

This while Moscow’s forces pressed their attack on defenders inside Mariupol’s steel plant in an apparent race to capture the city ahead of Russia’s Victory Day holiday.

Emergency crews found two bodies and rescued 30 people, but “most likely all 60 people who remain under the rubble are now dead,” Serhiy Haidai, governor of Luhansk province, wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Mr. Haidai said Russian shelling also killed two boys, ages 11 and 14, in the nearby town of Pryvillia. Luhansk is part of the Donbas, the industrial heartland in the east that Russia’s forces are working to capture.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “appalled” by the reported school bombing Saturday in the eastern village of Bilohorivka and called it another reminder that “it is civilians that pay the highest price” in war.

As Moscow prepared to celebrate the 1945 surrender of Nazi Germany with a Victory Day military parade on Monday, a lineup of Western leaders and celebrities made surprise visits to Ukraine in a show of support.

US first lady Jill Biden met with her Ukrainian counterpart. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised his country’s flag at its embassy in Kyiv. And U2′s Bono, alongside bandmate The Edge, performed in a Kyiv subway station that had been used as a bomb shelter, singing the 1960s song “Stand by Me.”

The newly appointed acting US ambassador to Ukraine, Kristina Kvien, posted a picture of herself at the American Embassy, and described plans for the eventual U.S. return to the Ukrainian capital after Moscow’s forces abandoned their effort to storm Kyiv weeks ago and began focusing on the capture of the Donbas.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and others warned in recent days that Russian attacks would only worsen in the lead-up to Victory Day, and some cities declared curfews or cautioned people against gathering in public. Russian President Vladimir Putin may want to proclaim some kind of triumph in Ukraine when he addresses the troops on Red Square.

“They have nothing to celebrate tomorrow,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US ambassador to the United Nations, told CNN. “They have not succeeded in defeating the Ukrainians. They have not succeeded in dividing the world or dividing NATO. And they have only succeeded in isolating themselves internationally and becoming a pariah state around the globe.”

Russian forces struggled to complete their takeover of Mariupol, which has been largely reduced to rubble. The sprawling seaside steel mill where an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian fighters were making what appeared to be their last stand was the only part of the city not under Russian control.

The last of the women, children and older civilians who were taking shelter with the fighters in the Azovstal plant were evacuated Saturday. Buses carrying over 170 evacuees from the steelworks and other parts of Mariupol arrived in the Ukrainian-held city of Zaporizhzhia on Sunday, UN officials said.

The Ukrainian defenders in the steel mill have rejected deadlines set by the Russians for laying down their arms.

Capt. Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Ukrainian Azov Regiment, a unit holding the steel mill, said the site was targeted overnight by warplanes, artillery and tanks.

“We are under constant shelling,” he said online, adding that Russian ground troops tried to storm the plant — a claim Russian officials denied in recent days — and lay mines. Palamar reported a “multitude of casualties.”

Lt. Illya Samoilenko, another member of the Azov Regiment, said there were a couple of hundred wounded soldiers at the plant but declined to reveal how many able-bodied fighters remained. He said fighters didn’t have lifesaving equipment and had to dig by hand to free people from bunkers that had collapsed under the shelling.

“Surrender for us is unacceptable because we cannot grant such a gift to the enemy,” Samoilenko said.

The Ukrainian government has reached out to international organizations to try to secure safe passage for the defenders. (Source: AP News)

 

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