60 suspected killed in Russian strike on school in eastern Ukraine
ZAPORIZHZHIA (AP) — Dozens of Ukrainians were reported dead on Sunday after a Russian bomb destroyed a school housing about 90 people in the basement as invading forces from Moscow continued their barrage of towns, villages and villages in eastern and southern Ukraine.
The governor of Luhansk province, one of two regions that make up the eastern industrial heartland known as Donbas, said the school in the village of Bilohorivka caught fire after Saturday’s bombing. Emergency teams found two bodies and rescued 30 people, he said.
“Most likely the 60 people who remain under the rubble are now dead,” Governor Serhiy Haidai wrote on the Telegram messaging app. Russian shelling also killed two boys, aged 11 and 14, in the nearby town of Pryvillia, he said.
Since failing to capture the Ukrainian capital, Russia has focused its offensive in Donbass, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting since 2014 and occupy part of the territory. Europe’s biggest conflict since World War II has turned into a punitive war of attrition due to the unexpectedly effective defense of the Ukrainian army.
To demonstrate its success, the Russian army strove to complete its conquest of the beleaguered port city of Mariupol, which has been under relentless assault since the start of the war, in time for Victory Day celebrations on Monday. A sprawling seaside steel mill is the only part of the city not under Russian control.
All the remaining women, children and elderly civilians who had taken refuge with Ukrainian fighters in the Azovstal plant were evacuated on Saturday. Troops still inside refused to surrender; hundreds are thought to be injured.
There were about 90 people in the school. Nearly 30 people have already been pulled out of the rubble. pic.twitter.com/mNAawnd9CJ
– NEXT (@nexta_tv) May 7, 2022
After rescuers evacuated the last civilians on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his evening speech that the focus would be on extracting the wounded and medics. Zelensky said work would also continue on Sunday to secure humanitarian corridors allowing residents of Mariupol and surrounding towns to leave.
The Ukrainian government contacted international organizations to try to secure safe passage for the approximately 2,000 fighters remaining in the factory’s underground tunnels and bunkers. Zelensky acknowledged the difficulty, but said, “We don’t lose hope, we don’t stop. Every day we search for a diplomatic option that might work.
The Ukrainian leader was due to hold online talks with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, US President Joe Biden and leaders of other Group of Seven countries on Sunday. The meeting is partly meant to show unity among Western allies Victory in Europe Day, which marks the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945.
Elsewhere on Ukraine’s coast, explosions rang out again on Sunday at the major Black Sea port of Odessa, which Russia hit on Saturday with six cruise missiles. Authorities offered no reports of immediate damage.
Odessa City Council said four of the missiles launched on Saturday hit a furniture business, with the shock waves and debris severely damaging high-rise apartment buildings. The other two hit Odessa airport, where a previous Russian attack had destroyed the runway.
Ukrainian leaders have warned the attacks will only get worse as Victory Day approaches, the May 9 public holiday when Russia celebrates the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945 with military parades. Russian President Vladimir Putin is believed to want to proclaim some sort of triumph in Ukraine when he addresses troops in Red Square on Monday.
In neighboring Moldova, Russian and separatist troops were on “full alert”, the Ukrainian army warned. The region has increasingly become a focus of concern about the possible extension of the conflict beyond Ukraine’s borders.
Pro-Russian forces broke off the Transnistrian section of Moldova in 1992, and Russian troops have been stationed there ever since, ostensibly as peacekeepers. These forces are in “full combat readiness”, Ukraine said, without giving details of how it came to the assessment.
Moscow has sought to sweep across southern Ukraine both to cut the country off from the Black Sea and to create a corridor to Transnistria. But he struggled to achieve those goals.
A sign of the fierce resistance that sustained the fighting until its 11th week, the Ukrainian army struck Russian positions on a Black Sea island that was captured in the early days of the war and became a symbol of the Ukrainian resistance.
Satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press showed Ukraine targeting the Russian-held Snake Island in an attempt to obstruct Russian efforts to control the sea.
A satellite image taken Sunday morning by Planet Labs PBC showed smoke rising from two sites on the island. On the southern edge of the island, a fire smoldered next to debris. This matched a video released by the Ukrainian military showing a strike on a Russian helicopter that had flown towards the island.
A Planet Labs image from Saturday showed most buildings on the island, along with what appeared to be a Serna-class landing craft, destroyed by Ukrainian drone attacks.
The heaviest fighting in recent days has taken place in eastern Ukraine. A Ukrainian counteroffensive near Kharkiv, a northeastern city that is the country’s second largest, “is making significant progress and will likely advance to the Russian border in the days or weeks to come”, according to the report. Institute for the Study of War.
The Washington-based think tank added that “the Ukrainian counteroffensive demonstrates promising Ukrainian capabilities.”
However, the Ukrainian army has withdrawn from the besieged town of Popasna in Lugansk province, Haidai, the regional governor, said on Sunday.
In a video interview posted on his Telegram channel, Haidai said Kyiv troops had “moved to stronger positions, which they had prepared in advance”.
Russian-backed rebels have established a breakaway region in Luhansk and neighboring Donetsk, which together form Donbass. Russia has targeted areas still under Ukrainian control.
“All free settlements in the Lugansk region are hotspots,” Haidai said. “At the moment there are shootings in (the villages) of Bilohorivka, Voivodivka and towards Popasna.”