More than 60 feared dead in bombing of Ukrainian school

More than 60 people were feared dead Sunday after a Russian bomb flattened a school being used as a shelter, Ukrainian officials said, 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.

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 civilians that pay the highest price” in war.

Authorities said about 90 people were sheltering in the basement. 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.

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

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 acting US ambassador to Ukraine, Kristina Kvien, posted a picture of herself at the American Embassy, ​​and described plans for the eventual US return to the Ukrainian capital after Moscow’s forced 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 days that Russian attacks would only increase 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, children and older civilians who were taking shelter with the fighters in the Azovstal plant of the women 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.

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