ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine (AP) — Dozens of Ukrainians were feared dead on Sunday after a Russian bomb destroyed a school that housed about 90 people in its basement, as invading Moscow forces fired their barrage of towns, villages 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 Bilohorivka village caught fire after Saturday’s bombing. Emergency services found two bodies and rescued 30 people, he said.
“Most likely all 60 people still under the rubble are now dead,” Governor 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 Russia failed to take Ukraine’s capital, Russia has concentrated its offensive in the Donbas, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting and occupying a certain area since 2014. The biggest European conflict since World War II has turned into a grueling war of attrition for the Ukrainian military unexpectedly effective defense†
To demonstrate success, the Russian army worked to complete the capture of the beleaguered port city of Mariupol, which had been under incessant attack since the beginning of the war, in time for Celebration of Victory Day on Monday. A sprawling steel mill on the coast is the only part of the city not under Russian control.
All remaining women, children and elderly civilians who fled with Ukrainian fighters at the Azovstal factory were evacuated on Saturday. The troops still inside have refused to surrender; hundreds are believed to have been injured.
after rescuers the last civilians evacuated On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his overnight address that the focus would be on getting the injured and medics. Zelenskyy said in his overnight address that work would also be done on Sunday to secure humanitarian corridors for residents of Mariupol and surrounding cities to leave.
The Ukrainian government has reached out to international organizations to try to secure safe passage for the estimated 2,000 fighters still in the factory’s underground tunnels and bunkers. Zelenskyy acknowledged the difficulty, but said: “We are not losing hope, we are not stopping. Every day we look for a diplomatic option that could work.”
The Ukrainian leader was said 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 also intended to promote unity between western allies on Victory in Europe Day, which marks the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945.
Elsewhere on the Ukrainian coast, explosions echoed again on Sunday in the large Black Sea port city of Odessa, which Russia struck on Saturday with six cruise missiles. Authorities did not offer immediate damage reports.
Odessa’s city council said four of the rockets launched on Saturday hit a furniture company, with the shock waves and debris severely damaging high-rise apartment buildings. The other two hit Odessa airport, where a previous Russian attack destroyed the runway.
Ukrainian leaders warned that attacks would only worsen in the run-up to Victory Day, the holiday of May 9 when Russia celebrates the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945 with military parades. Russian President Vladimir Putin would like to declare some sort of triumph in Ukraine when he addresses troops in Red Square on Monday.
In neighboring Moldova, Russian and separatist forces were “on full alert,” the Ukrainian army warned. The region has increasingly become a concern that the conflict could spread beyond Ukraine’s borders.
Pro-Russian forces tore down the Transnistrian portion of Moldova in 1992, and Russian troops have been stationed there ever since, ostensibly as peacekeepers. Those troops are “completely ready for battle,” Ukraine said, without giving details on how it arrived at the assessment.
Moscow has attempted to traverse southern Ukraine, both to seal off the country from the Black Sea and to create a corridor to Transnistria. But it struggles to achieve those goals.
As a sign of the tenacious resistance that has persisted into the 11th week of fighting, the Ukrainian army struck Russian positions on an island in the Black Sea conquered in the early days of the war and has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance.
Satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press showed Ukraine targeting Russian-occupied Snake Island in an attempt to thwart Russian efforts to control the sea.
A satellite image taken Sunday morning by Planet Labs PBC showed smoke rising from two locations on the island. On the southern edge of the island, a fire smoked next to rubble. That matched a video released by the Ukrainian military showing an attack on a Russian helicopter that had flown to the island.
A Planet Labs image from Saturday showed most of the island’s buildings, as well as what appeared to be a Serna-class landing craft destroyed by Ukrainian drone strikes.
The most intense fighting in recent days has taken place in eastern Ukraine. A Ukrainian counter-offensive near Kharkiv, a city in the northeast that is the country’s second largest, “is making significant progress and is likely to advance towards the Russian border in the coming days or weeks,” according to the Institute for the Study of War. .
The Washington-based think tank added that “the Ukrainian counter-offensive shows promising Ukrainian capabilities”.
However, the Ukrainian army withdrew from the fought-over city of Popasna, Haidai, in Luhansk province, the regional governor said on Sunday.
In a video interview on his Telegram channel, Haidai said Kiev’s troops had “moved to stronger positions, which they had prepared in advance”.
The Russian-backed rebels have established a breakaway territory in Luhansk and neighboring Donetsk, which together form the Donbas. Russia has attacked areas still under Ukrainian control.
“All free settlements in the Luhansk region are hot spots,” Haidai said. “At the moment there are shooting battles in (the villages) of Bilohorivka, Voivodivka and towards Popasna.”
Gambrell reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Yesica Fisch in Bakhmut, David Keyton in Kiev, Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstyslav Chernov in Kharkiv, Lolita C. Baldor in Washington and AP employees around the world contributed to this report.
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