ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine — Dozens of Ukrainians were feared dead Sunday after a Russian bomb flattened a school sheltering about 90 people in its basement, while Ukrainian troops refused to surrender at a besieged steel plant that Moscow’s invading forces sped to seize before Russia’s Victory Day holiday.
The governor of Luhansk province, one of two areas that make up the eastern industrial heartland known as the Donbas, said the school in the village of Bilohorivka caught fire after Saturday’s bombing. He said that emergency crews discovered two bodies and saved 30 others.
“Most likely, all 60 people who remain under the rubble are now dead,” Gov. Serhiy Hadidai sent the message to Telegram. He stated that Russian bombardment also resulted in two deaths of boys aged 11-14, both from Pryvillia.
The largest European conflict since World War II has developed into a punishing war of attrition due to the Ukrainian military’s unexpectedly effective defense. Since failing to capture Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, Moscow’s forces have attacked cities, towns and villages in eastern and southern Ukraine but not gained much ground, according to Western military analysts.
The Russian military completed its occupation of Mariupol to show victory in time for Victory Day. Mariupol has been subject to constant assaults since the beginning of war. This is the last part of the city that’s not under Russian rule. It includes the sprawling steel mill on the coast where 2,000 Ukrainian fighters are making their final stand.
The Azovstal plant fighers evacuated all the women, children, and elderly civilians that had been hiding with them. You can be sure that hundreds of wounded people are among the troops who remain inside.
Capt. Sviatoslav Palmar, deputy commander of Azov Regiment and a Ukrainian National Guard battalion that holds the steel mill said Sunday at an online conference that three fighter jet sorties, artillery, tanks, and mortars had targeted the area overnight.
“We are under constant shelling,” he said, adding that Russian infantry tried to storm the plant — a claim Russian officials denied in recent days – and to lay landmines.
Palamar said there was a “multitude of casualties” at the plant.
Another member of the Azov regiment, Lt. Illya Samoilenko declined to give a figure on how many soldiers were still in the facility at that news conference. The soldiers looked worn out and had long beards.
“The truth is we are unique because no one expected we would last so long,” Samoilenko said. “Surrender for us is unacceptable because we cannot grant such a gift to the enemy.”
The last remaining civilians were evacuated by rescuers. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zeleskyy stated in his nightly video address, “Work will continue on Sunday to secure humanitarian corridors so that residents of Mariupol can leave.”
The Ukrainian government has reached out to international organizations to try to secure safe passage for the fighters remaining in the plant’s underground tunnels and bunkers.
According to reports, Boris Johnson of Britain and Joe Biden of the United States were expected to meet Sunday with Boris Johnson of Great Britain as well as leaders of other Group of Seven members. The meeting is partly meant to display unity among Western allies on Victory in Europe Day, which marks Nazi Germany’s 1945 surrender.
Elsewhere on Ukraine’s coast, explosions echoed again Sunday across the major Black Sea port of Odesa, which Russia struck with six cruise missiles on Saturday, while rocket fire damaged some 250 apartments, according to the city council.
Ukrainian leaders warned that attacks would only worsen in the lead-up to Victory Day, the May 9 holiday when Russia celebrates Nazi Germany’s defeat in 1945 with military parades. Russian President Vladimir Putin will likely address the troops in Red Square on Monday to announce some sort of victory for Ukraine.
Zelenskyy released a video address Sunday marking the day of the Allied victory in Europe 77 years ago, drawing parallels between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the evils of Nazism.
On social media, Zelenskyy was seen standing before a Borodyanka apartment block that had been destroyed by Russian troops. This is one of the Kyiv suburbs which were ravaged just weeks prior to the withdrawal of Russian troops from the capital.
“Every year, on May 8, along with the whole civilized world, we pay our respects to everyone who defended the planet against Nazism during World War II,” Zelenskyy said.
“We knew the price our ancestors have paid for this wisdom. It was important to preserve it and to pass it down to the next generation. … But we hadn’t any notion that our generation will witness the abuse of these words,” he said.
In neighboring Moldova, Russian and separatists troops were on “full alert,” the Ukrainian military warned. The region has increasingly become a focus of worries that the conflict could expand beyond Ukraine’s borders.
In 1992, pro-Russian forces shattered the Transnistria region of Moldova. Since then, Russian troops have been present there, purportedly as peacekeepers. Those forces are on “full combat readiness,” Ukraine said, without giving details on how it came to the assessment.
Moscow attempted to sweep across the southern Ukraine to both cut the country off from the Black Sea as well as to establish a Transnistria corridor. It has not been able to accomplish these objectives.
In a sign of the dogged resistance that has sustained the fighting into its 11th week, Ukraine’s military struck Russian positions on a Black Sea island that was captured in the war’s first days and has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance.
Satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press showed Ukraine targeting Russian-held Snake Island in a bid to impede Russia’s efforts to control the sea.
Planet Labs PBC captured a satellite photo Sunday morning that showed smoke rising at two spots on the island. On the island’s southern edge, a fire smoked next to debris. The Ukrainian military released a video that showed a strike against a Russian helicopter, which had flown over 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 attacks.
Eastern Ukraine has seen the most violent fighting in recent times. A Ukrainian counteroffensive near Kharkiv, a city in the northeast that is the country’s second-largest, “is making significant progress and will likely advance to 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 counteroffensive demonstrates promising Ukrainian capabilities.”
However, the Ukrainian army withdrew from Luhansk province’s embattled city of Popasna, Haidai, the regional governor, said Sunday.
In a video interview posted on his Telegram channel, Haidai said that Kyiv’s troops had “moved to stronger positions, which they had prepared ahead of time.”
Russia-supported rebels created a separatist region in Luhansk. Donetsk is nearby. These two regions together form the Donbas. Russia targeted Ukrainian-controlled areas.
“All free settlements in the Luhansk region are hot spots,” Haidai said. “Right now, there are shooting battles in (the villages) of Bilohorivka, Voivodivka and towards Popasna.”
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