Russia bombs civilians in shelter ahead of Victory Day election

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BERESTOVE, Ukraine – A day before a planned celebration in Russia to mark the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany, a air raid at a school in eastern Ukraine that served as a bomb shelter left as many as 60 people under the rubble and feared death, Ukrainian officials said, in what would prove to be one of the deadliest attacks on civilians in the nearly three month old war .

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s troops have stepped up their efforts to consolidate more territory in Ukraine ahead of planned Victory Day parades and pageantry on Monday, during which Putin may first publicly acknowledge that his country is at war with Ukraine, paving the way for him to bring more Russians into the fray.

“We know that there are no red lines for the Moscow regime. So we are preparing for everything,” warned Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, who questioned whether Putin’s fellow citizens understood the real costs of a war – to Russia and Ukraine – that he has tried to hide.

“It’s an aggressive war,” Markarova told CBS News’ Face the Nation. Russia has attacked a neighboring country, a peaceful country. And the question is, are they willing to have even more tens of thousands of deaths in Ukraine for no reason at all?”

Ukraine Celebrates Gloomy Victory Day

The attack on the school underscored what US officials describe as the criminal nature of the Russian military campaign, which they say is targeting civilians.

According to Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the eastern region of Luhansk, about 90 people were hiding in the basement of the school in the eastern village of Bilohorivka when it was attacked.

Videos of what remained of the school showed firefighters digging through the rubble as small flames licked the rubble. Rescuers fought for nearly four hours to put out a fire caused by a bomb from a Russian plane, Haidai said.

It is not clear how many people were inside or whether there were soldiers in the area at the time of the attack. 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, although some civilians who were evacuated said about 37 people were sheltering there.

“Only 12 of us are alive,” said one of four patients interviewed by The Washington Post 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.”

The violence contrasted with other scenes of solidarity and a cautious, hopeful return to normalcy elsewhere in Ukraine as more dignitaries enter the country to show support for the government.

In the west of the country, largely spared from the Russian attack, First Lady Jill Biden paid an unannounced visit and met refugees at a processing center at the Vysne Nemecke crossing near the border with Slovakia.

“I wanted to come on Mother’s Day”, Biden said after entering Ukraine† “I thought it was important to show the Ukrainian people that this war must stop and that this war has been cruel and that the people of the United States stand behind the people of Ukraine.”

Biden also met with Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, who had not appeared in public since the Russian invasion on Feb. 24. She praised Biden “for a very brave act” in coming to Ukraine.

“We understand what it takes for the US first lady to come here during a war when the military actions are happening every day, where the air sirens are sounding every day, even today,” Zelenska said in Ukrainian through an interpreter.

Biden’s visit came on a four-day tour of Eastern Europe for the first lady, her most prominent diplomatic engagement since President Biden took office, and it was a rare visit from a president’s wife to a war zone.

Jill Biden is the first lady role

In the capital Kiev, US diplomats made a first attempt to reopen the US embassy, ​​which had been evacuated before the Russian invasion.

US Chargé d’affaires Kristina Kvien and a small group of diplomats and security personnel went to the US mission on Sunday on the occasion of Victory in Europe Day, also known as VE Day, commemorating the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany’s troops to the Allies in World War II.

The US delegation’s visit did not mean an official reopening of the embassy, ​​but the Biden administration plans to do so, the State Department said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, in a telephone conversation on Sunday that Kvien and her colleagues had gone to the embassy “to hold diplomatic consultations ahead of the planned resumption of operations at the embassy in Kiev,” as Blinken had promised. to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at their recent meeting in Ukraine, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also made an unannounced visit to Ukraine to speak with Ukrainian officials and raise the Canadian flag again over his country’s embassy in Kiev, nearly three months after operations were suspended. He toured the ruined suburb of Irpin in Kiev, announced an additional $50 million in military aidand said his country would lift trade tariffs on Ukrainian imports for a year.

Trudeau’s visit preceded a virtual conference with other leaders of the Group of Seven Nations and Zelensky on ways to support Ukraine.

The G-7 — which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States — has committed to phasing out or introducing outright bans on the use of Russian oil and gas.

The United States has already banned imports of Russian oil, gas and coal, but many countries, especially in Europe, have had a harder time easing dependence on Russian resources. European Union ambassadors have been meeting in Brussels for days to agree on a proposal to phase out Russia’s oil imports, but were again thwarted by pushbacks, particularly from Hungary.

The G-7 statement did not provide a timeline for the bans.

“We will ensure that we do this in a timely and orderly manner, and in a way that gives the world time to secure alternative supplies,” the statement said.

The leaders announced additional sanctions against Russia, including new restrictions on three prominent state-controlled media organizations.

President Biden spoke to the group from his home in Delaware. The White House later announced additional sanctions, including visa restrictions on a wider group of Russian elites.

It also banned Americans from providing accounting, trust building and management advice to anyone in Russia. For now, however, the provision of legal services to Russians will not be banned, a senior government official said during a briefing.

“These services are essential to Russian companies and elites building wealth, generating revenue for Putin’s war machine, and hiding that wealth and evading sanctions,” the White House statement said.

In his own commemoration of the victory over the Nazis 77 years earlier, Zelensky said publicly that “evil has returned” to Europe.

Posted in an address to TelegramZelensky, standing between two blackened apartment buildings and wearing a T-shirt with the words “I’m Ukrainian” on the front, said this year’s commemoration was different because for the first time since World War II, “monsters” have fought again. a deadly conflict.

The enemy, he said, is wearing a “different uniform” this time, but has the same destructive purpose.

“This year we say ‘never again’ differently. We hear ‘Never again’ differently,” Zelensky said. The slogan, a rejection of any return to Nazism, now sounds “cruel” to Ukrainians under constant bombardment from Russia, he said.

“On February 24, the word ‘never’ was erased.”

Harris reported from Washington, Pager from Uzhhorod, Ukraine, and Wootson from Wilmington, Del. Rachel Pannett in Sydney; Emily Rauhala and Quentin Ariès in Brussels; Jennifer Hassan, Victoria Bissett and Annabelle Timsit in London; Meryl Kornfield in Washington; Annabelle Chapman in Paris; and Amanda Coletta in Toronto contributed to this report.

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