Dozens feared dead as Russian shell hits Ukrainian school

Dozens of Ukrainians were feared dead on Sunday after a Russian bomb destroyed a school sheltering about 90 people in the basement as Moscow’s invading forces kept up their barrage of cities, towns and villages in eastern and southern Ukraine.


The governor of Luhansk province, one of two areas that make up the eastern industrial heartland known as the Donbas, said the school in the village of Bilohorivka caught fire after Saturday’s bombing. Emergency crews found two bodies and rescued 30 people, he said.


“Most likely, all 60 people who remain under the rubble are now dead,” Gov. Serhiy Haidai wrote on the Telegram messaging app.


Russian shelling also killed two boys, ages 11 and 14, in the nearby town of Pryvillia, he said.


Since failing to capture Ukraine’s capital, Russia has focused its offensive in the Donbas, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting since 2014 and occupying some territory.


The largest European conflict since World War II has developed into a punishing war of attrition due to the Ukrainian military’s unexpectedly effective defence.


To demonstrate success, Moscow was aiming to complete its conquest of the besieged port city of Mariupol in time for Victory Day celebrations on Monday.


All the remaining women, children and older civilians who had been sheltering with Ukrainian fighters in a sprawling steel mill that is the city’s last defense holdout were evacuated on Saturday.


The troops still inside have refused to surrender and requested international help to get them out, too.


Capturing Mariupol would give Moscow a land bridge to the Crimean Peninsula, annexed from Ukraine during a 2014 invasion.


Satellite photos shot Friday by Planet Labs PBC showed vast devastation at the Azovstal steel mill. Buildings had gaping holes in the roofs, including one under which hundreds of fighters were likely hiding.


After rescuers evacuated the last civilians on Saturday, Ukrainian Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address that the focus would turn to extracting the wounded and medics: “Of course, if everyone fulfils the agreements. Of course, if there are no lies.” Elsewhere on the coast, air raid sirens sounded several times early on Sunday in the major Black sea port of Odesa, which Russia struck with six cruise missiles on Saturday.


The Odesa city council said four of the missiles hit a furniture company, with the shock waves and debris badly damaging high-rise apartment buildings. The other two missiles hit the Odesa airport, where a previous Russian attack destroyed the runway.


In a sign of the dogged resistance that has sustained the fighting into its 11th week, Ukraine’s military struck Russian positions on a Black Sea island that was captured in the war’s first days and has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance.


Western military analysts also said a Ukrainian counteroffensive was advancing around the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv.


Ukraine’s military said retreating Russian forces destroyed three bridges on a road northeast of the city to try to slow the Ukrainian advance.

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