KYIV, Ukraine – The Russian bombing of a village school in the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk is thought to have killed up to 60 people, according to the regional governor on Sunday, May 8.
According to Governor Serhiy Gaidai, Russian forces detonated a bomb on the school in Bilohorivka where some 90 people were hiding on Saturday afternoon, causing a fire to overtake the structure.
“After almost four hours, the fire was put out, the wreckage was cleaned, and regrettably, the deaths of two persons were discovered,” Gaidai said on the Telegram messaging service.
“Thirty people were evacuated from the rubble, seven of whom were injured. Sixty people were likely to have died under the rubble of buildings.”
Reuters could not immediately verify the report.
In the fight, Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Russian soldiers of attacking civilians, which Moscow denies.
Scores of civilians have been evacuated from a large steel complex in the wrecked southern port city of Mariupol in a week-long operation coordinated by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an address late on Saturday that more than 300 civilians had been rescued from the Azovstal steelworks and authorities would now focus on trying to evacuate the wounded and medics. Other Ukrainian sources have cited different figures.
Separatists backed by Russia said 176 residents were evacuated from the factory on Saturday.
The Azovstal complex is a final bastion for Ukrainian forces in the city, which is now entirely under Russian control, and many residents have sought sanctuary in its subterranean bunkers. It has become a symbol of opposition to Russia’s attempt to annex large areas of eastern and southern Ukraine.
Putin describes the invasion, which began on February 24, as a “special military operation” aimed at disarming Ukraine and removing anti-Russian chauvinism instilled by the West. Ukraine and its allies accuse Russia of starting a war without warning.
Mariupol is critical for limiting Ukrainian exports and connecting Russia’s annexed the Crimean Peninsula with sections of the eastern provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk, which have been held by Russia-backed rebels since 2014.
On Victory Day, when Europe remembered Germany’s formal surrender to the Allies in World War Two, Zelenskiy claimed that evil had returned to Ukraine with the Russian invasion, but that his country would triumph.
US President Joe Biden and other G7 leaders were to hold a video call with Zelenskiy on Sunday in a show of unity ahead of Victory Day celebrations on Monday in Russia.
Underlining Western support for Ukraine, Britain pledged to provide a further 1.3 billion pounds ($1.6 billion) in military support and aid, double its previous spending commitments.
Victory Day is a major event in Russia and Putin will preside on Monday over a parade in Moscow’s Red Square of troops, tanks, rockets, and intercontinental ballistic missiles, showing military might even as his forces fight on in Ukraine.
His speech could offer clues on the future of the war. Russia’s efforts have been stymied by logistical and equipment problems and high casualties in the face of fierce resistance.
US Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns said on Saturday that Putin was convinced “doubling down” on the conflict would improve the outcome for Russia.
“He’s in a frame of mind in which he doesn’t believe he can afford to lose,” Burns told a Financial Times event in Washington on Saturday.