Luhansk school bombed in Ukraine, killing up to 60, official says

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BERESTOVE, Ukraine — A Russian airstrike on a school that served as a civilian air raid shelter left as many as 60 people trapped under the rubble and feared dead, Ukrainian officials said Sunday.

If confirmed, the incident in the eastern village of Bilohorivka would be among the deadliest attacks on civilians since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. splendor in Russia known as Victory Day.

On Sunday, the sounds of clashes were heard along the road to Bilohorivka. As Ukrainian and Russian troops exchanged missiles and artillery fire, soldiers urged civilian cars to turn back.

According to Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the eastern region of Luhansk, about 90 people were hiding in the basement of the Bilohorivka school when it was attacked. But some civilians evacuated from under the rubble lowered the number, saying there were at least 37 people hiding in their basement.

“Only 12 of us are alive,” said one of four patients interviewed by Washington Post reporters as they left a hospital in the city of Bakhmut.

“We had been in that basement for a month,” said a 57-year-old woman, who called her name Irena. Her neck and face were swollen. “We were eating when it happened. We didn’t know what hit us.”

Haidai said 30 people were rescued on Saturday, seven of them injured, and two bodies were also found in the rubble. He said it is likely that all 60 people buried under the rubble are dead. Rescue workers fought for nearly four hours to extinguish a fire caused by a bomb from a Russian plane, he added.

Write On his Telegram channel, Haidai on Sunday condemned the “cynical” attack on “a school with a bomb shelter”. The Post was unable to verify the veracity of the claims.

Both Russian and Ukrainian troops have at times used empty schools as bases.

The attack on the school came amid growing fears that Putin could use Monday’s Victory Day holiday to unleash, even temporarily, an even tougher attack on Ukraine.

Russia is focusing its efforts on conquering more territory in eastern Ukraine, where the conflict between the Ukrainian military and Russian-backed separatists began in 2014.

Putin “just wants to tell his people something tomorrow,” a member of Ukraine’s Territorial Forces, a largely voluntary reserve force, told The Post, on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

“They’re doing their best to take these cities,” he said.

Fighting raged in Luhansk on Sunday as Russian troops attempted to encircle the cities of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk. As reporters drove to the area, plumes of smoke hung on the horizon.

As an artillery shell hit a nearby field, a civilian van in camouflage colors sped through the cloud of dust it created. From inside the vehicle, a soldier waved wildly at cars driving in the opposite direction and begged them to turn around.

Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Russian republic of Chechnya, said on Sunday that his soldiers have taken most of the eastern Ukrainian city of Popasna, although Ukrainian officials insist the battle is not over.

“The soldiers of the Chechen special forces… have most of Popasna under control,” Kadyrov wrote on his Telegram channel. “The city’s main streets and central neighborhoods have been completely cleared.”

Haidai said in an update on Sunday that Ukrainian troops had withdrawn from Popasna to safer positions on the battlefield. “Our troops have withdrawn from Popasna,” he said wrote on Telegram. “Ukraine’s armed forces are now in a stronger position, which they prepared in advance.” The Post was unable to verify the veracity of either party’s claims.

In Shipilove, a village in eastern Ukraine near the site where the school was hit, 11 people are believed to have been detained after a Russian bombing hit a building. said on his Telegram channel on Sunday

The group was hiding in a basement when the attack took place, but he said “they could be rescued”. The Post could not immediately verify the messages.

On a Victory Day without victory, Putin faces the choice of all-out war

While Moscow’s troops appeared to be trying to consolidate their hold on parts of eastern Ukraine taken since the invasion, progress has slowed in recent weeks, losing ground in the region around Ukraine’s second-largest city. , Kharkiv.

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry condemned the attack on the school as a “cruel war crime” and accused Moscow of “constantly repeating the tragedy of World War II.”

Ukraine, along with other countries, commemorated the end of World War II in Europe on Sunday. President Volodymyr Zelensky said that after decades of peace, “evil has returned” with the invasion of Russia.

Pannett reported from Sydney and Hassan from London. Meryl Kornfield in Washington, Victoria Bissett and Annabelle Timsit in London and Annabelle Chapman in Paris contributed to this report.

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