KYIV, Ukraine – Russia’s bombing of a school in the eastern Ukrainian village of Bilohorivka killed two people and left 60 in the debris feared dead, the governor of the Luhansk region said on Sunday, May 8.
According to Governor Serhiy Gaidai, Russian forces detonated a bomb on the school where roughly 90 people were refuge 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.
“From the wreckage, thirty persons were rescued, and seven of them were injured. Under the debris of buildings, sixty individuals were estimated to have died.”
The report was not immediately verified by Reuters.
Ukraine and the West have accused Russian soldiers of killing civilians and committing war crimes, accusations that Moscow denies.
Thousands have died, towns have been damaged, and 5 million Ukrainians have fled abroad as a result of Russia’s 10-week assault on Ukraine.
Mariupol, a strategically important port city for Russian forces, has been virtually devastated, with the last 300 inhabitants trapped in the bombed-out Azovstal steelworks being evacuated on Saturday. The injured and doctors will be the first to be evacuated from the steelworks.
Ukrainian fighters in the plant have vowed not to surrender and Russian forces are seeking to declare a victory in the prolonged battle for the vast plant in time for Monday’s Victory Day celebrations in Moscow, which commemorate the Soviet Union’s triumph over Nazi Germany in World War Two.
The Soviet-era Azovstal steel mill, the last holdout for Ukrainian forces in the key port city, has become a symbol of resistance to the Russian effort to capture swaths of eastern and southern Ukraine.
US President Joe Biden and other G7 leaders are to hold a video call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday in a show of unity ahead of Victory Day, in which President Vladimir Putin typically inspects a massive military parade in Moscow.
“Putin’s savage strike is harming peace and security across Europe,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement on Saturday, promising greater military assistance.
Britain allocated an additional 1.3 billion pounds ($1.6 billion), more than doubling its previous expenditure promises and marking the country’s highest pace of conflict spending since the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
Putin’s Victory Day address might provide insight into the war’s future, which he began on February 24 with a failed assault on Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. In the face of heavy opposition, Russia’s operations have been hampered by logistical and equipment issues, as well as significant fatalities.
US Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns said 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.
Other observers suggest Putin may declare the mission accomplished. Ukraine’s defense intelligence agency has cited reports that the Kremlin was in Mariupol preparing for a Victory Day parade in the devastated city.
The Kremlin did not respond to requests for comment on what Putin might say in the speech, to be delivered from the Red Square tribune in front of Vladimir Lenin’s Mausoleum.
Moscow calls the war a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and rid it of anti-Russian nationalism fomented by the West. Ukraine and the West say Russia launched an unprovoked war.
Mariupol, located between the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014, and areas of eastern Ukraine annexed by Russia-backed rebels the same year, is critical in connecting the two Russian-controlled regions and limiting Ukrainian exports.
Ukraine’s general staff warned on Sunday that Ukrainian soldiers near the Azovstal complex were still being blockaded, and Russia’s assault on Mariupol continued with artillery and tanks.
Russia’s attack in eastern Ukraine intends to reclaim complete control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where pro-Russian rebels have declared independent republics, as well as the land corridor that connects these areas to Crimea.
Ukraine’s forces in the two regions repulsed nine enemy attacks, destroying 19 tanks, 20 combat vehicles, and one unit of enemy special engineering equipment said the general staff on Sunday. Reuters could not immediately verify the reports.