ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine (AP) – More than 60 people were feared Sunday after a Russian bomb flattened a school used as a shelter, Ukrainian officials said, as Moscow forces continued their attack on defenders in continue the Mariupol steel factory in an apparent race to conquer the city before that of Russia victory day holiday†
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “shocked” by the reported bombing of a school Saturday in the eastern village of Bilohorivaka, calling it another reminder that “citizens pay the highest price” in war.
According to authorities, about 90 people had sought shelter in the basement. Emergency services found two bodies and rescued 30 people, but “most likely all 60 people still under the rubble are now dead,” Serhiy Haidai, governor of Luhansk province, wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
Russian shelling also killed two boys, aged 11 and 14, in the nearby town of Pryvillia, he said. Luhansk is part of the Donbas, the industrial heartland in the east that the Russian forces want to conquer.
As Moscow prepared to celebrate Nazi Germany’s surrender in 1945 with a military parade on Monday’s Victory Day, a line of Western leaders and celebrities paid surprise visits to Ukraine as a show of support.
US First Lady Jill Biden met with her Ukrainian counterpart. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hoisted his country’s flag at his embassy in Kiev. And Bono of U2, along with bandmate The Edge, performed in a Kiev metro station that had been used as a bomb shelter, and sang the song ‘Stand by Me’ from the 1960s.
Newly appointed acting US ambassador to Ukraine Kristina Kvien posted a photo of herself outside the US embassy as she outlined plans for the eventual return of the US to the Ukrainian capital after Moscow’s troops launched their attempt to storm Kiev weeks ago. had given up and began to focus on the capture. of the Donbas.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and others warned in recent days that the Russian attacks would only worsen in the run-up to Victory Day, and some cities have imposed curfews or warned people not to gather in public. Russian President Vladimir Putin would like to declare some sort of triumph in Ukraine when he addresses the troops in Red Square.
“They have nothing to celebrate tomorrow,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the United Nations, told CNN. “They failed to beat the Ukrainians. They have failed to divide the world or divide NATO. And they have only managed to isolate themselves internationally and become a pariah state around the world.”
Russian forces struggled to complete their takeover of Mariupol, which has been largely reduced to rubble. The sprawling coastal steel factory where an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian fighters were making turned out to be their last stand was the only part of the city that was not under Russian control.
The last women, children and elderly civilians seeking shelter with the fighters at the Azovstal factory were evacuated on Saturday. According to UN officials, buses carrying more than 170 evacuees from the steel mill and other parts of Mariupol arrived in the Ukrainian-occupied city of Zaporizhzhya on Sunday.
The Ukrainian defenders at the steel plant have rejected the deadlines set by the Russians for laying down the weapons.
Captain Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of Ukraine’s Azov regiment, a unit that owns the steel plant, said the site was attacked overnight by warplanes, artillery and tanks.
“We are constantly being fired upon,” he said online, adding that Russian ground forces attempted to storm the factory — a claim Russian officials have denied in recent days — and laid mines. Palamar reported a “multiple casualties”.
Lieutenant Illya Samoilenko, another member of the Azov regiment, said there were several hundred wounded soldiers in the factory, but declined to reveal how many healthy fighters were left. He said fighters had no life-saving equipment and had to dig by hand to free people from bunkers that had collapsed under the shelling.
“Surrender is unacceptable to us because we cannot give such a gift to the enemy,” said Samoilenko.
The Ukrainian government has reached out to international organizations to try to secure safe passage for the defenders.
On the economic front, leaders of the Group of Seven Industrial Democracies pledged to ban or phase out Russian oil imports. The G-7 consists of the US, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Japan.
The US also announced new sanctions against Russia, banning Western advertising on Russia’s three largest TV stations, banning US accounting and consulting firms, and banning the Russian industrial sector from access to wood products, industrial engines, boilers and bulldozers.
Trudeau met Zelenskyy and paid a surprise visit to Irpin, which had been damaged in Russia’s attempt to take Kiev. The Ukrainian president also met with German parliament speaker, Bärbel Bas, in Kiev to discuss further defense assistance.
Visited Jill Biden Western Ukraine for a surprising Mother’s Day meeting with Zelenskyy’s wife, Olena Zelenska.
Zelenskyy released a video speech marking the 77th anniversary of the Allied victory in Europe, drawing parallels between the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the evils of Nazism. In the black-and-white images, Zelenskyy was standing in front of a destroyed apartment building in Borodyanka, a suburb of Kiev.
Zelensky said generations of Ukrainians understood the meaning of the words “Never again,” a phrase often used as a vow not to allow a repeat of the horrors of the Holocaust.
Elsewhere, on the Ukrainian coast, explosions echoed again over the large Black Sea port city of Odessa. According to local media, at least five explosions were heard.
The Ukrainian military said Moscow focused its main efforts on destroying airport infrastructure in eastern and southern Ukraine.
As a sign of the tenacious resistance that persisted into the 11th week of fighting, the Ukrainian army struck Russian positions on an island in the Black Sea captured in the early days of the war. A satellite image from Planet Labs showed smoke rising from two locations on the island.
But Moscow’s troops showed no signs of retreat to the south. Satellite photos show that Russia has deployed armored vehicles and missile systems at a small base in the Crimean peninsula.
The most intense fighting in recent days has taken place in eastern Ukraine. A Ukrainian counter-offensive in the northeast near Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, is making “significant progress,” according to the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank.
However, the Ukrainian army withdrew from the beleaguered eastern city of Popasna, regional authorities said.
Rodion Miroshnik, a representative of the pro-Kremlin, the separatist People’s Republic of Luhansk, said his troops and Russian forces have taken most of Popasna after two months of fierce fighting.
The Kharkiv regional administration said three people were killed in shelling of the town of Bogodukhiv, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the city of Kharkiv.
South of Kharkov, in Dnipropetrovsk province, the governor said a 12-year-old boy was killed by cluster munitions he found after a Russian attack. An international treaty prohibits the use of such explosives, but neither Russia nor Ukraine have signed the agreement.
“This war is treacherous,” the governor, Valentyn Reznichenko, wrote on social media. “It’s close, even if it’s invisible.”
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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