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Dozens feared deaths after a Russian bomb leveled a school in Ukraine

ZAPORIZH – Dozens of Ukrainians feared dead on Sunday after a Russian bomb destroyed a school housing about 90 people in its basement, while Ukrainian troops refused to surrender to the besieged steel mine, which Moscow’s invasion forces accelerated before Victory Day. of Russia.

The governor of Luhansk province, one of the two districts that make up the eastern industrial center known as Donbass, said a school in the village of Bilogorovka caught fire after Saturday’s bombing. Emergency crews found two bodies and rescued 30 people, he said.

“Most likely, all 60 people left under the rubble are already dead,” Governor Sergei Haidai wrote in the Telegram news app. Two 11- and 14-year-old boys were also killed in the Russian shelling in the nearby town of Privilege, he said.

The biggest European conflict since World War II has turned into a criminal war of attrition due to the unexpectedly effective defense of the Ukrainian military. After failing to capture Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, Moscow’s forces attacked cities, towns and villages in eastern and southern Ukraine, but did not win many positions, according to Western military analysts.

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To demonstrate success in time for Monday’s Victory Day, the Russian military has been working to complete the takeover of Mariupol, which has been under relentless attack since the start of the war. The vast coastal steel factory, where about 2,000 Ukrainian fighters fought for the final battle, is the only part of the city not under Russian control.

All other women, children and elderly civilians who took refuge with the fighters at the Azovstal plant were evacuated on Saturday. Ukrainian troops have rejected deadlines given by the Russians, who said defenders could leave their lives if they laid down their arms.

Captain Svyatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Azov Regiment, a battalion of the Ukrainian National Guard that runs the steel plant, told an online news conference Sunday that the site was attacked at night by three fighters, artillery and tanks.

“We are under constant fire,” he said, adding that Russian infantry had tried to storm the plant – a claim denied by Russian authorities in recent days – and to plant landmines.

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Palamar said there were “many casualties” at the plant.

Lieutenant Iliya Samoilenko, another member of the Azov Regiment, said there were “two hundred” wounded soldiers at the plant, but declined to reveal at the same press conference how many fighters remained at the plant.

He described the situation as terrible because they did not have life-saving equipment in their tunnels. He also said fighters had to dig people by hand when some bunkers collapsed under Russian fire.

“The truth is that we are unique because no one expected us to last that long,” Samoilenko said. “Surrender is unacceptable to us because we cannot give such a gift to the enemy.

After rescuers evacuated the last civilians, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an evening video that work would continue on Sunday to provide humanitarian corridors for residents of Mariupol and surrounding cities to leave.

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The Ukrainian government has turned to international organizations to try to provide a safe passage for fighters who remain in the plant’s underground tunnels and bunkers.

The Ukrainian leader was expected to hold online talks Sunday with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, US President Joe Biden and leaders of other Group of Seven countries. The meeting is partly aimed at showing unity among Western allies on Europe’s Victory Day, which marks the capitulation of Nazi Germany in 1945.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid a surprise visit to Irpin, which was damaged by Russia’s attempt to take Kyiv at the start of the war, according to Ukrainian media Suspilne and Irpin Mayor Alexander Markushin.

Canadian officials did not immediately acknowledge Trudeau’s presence.

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Trudeau is the last Western leader to come to Ukraine to offer his support to the country.

US First Lady Jill Biden paid an unannounced visit to western Ukraine. She held a surprise Mother’s Day meeting with Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, at a rural school as Russia insisted on its punitive war in the eastern regions.

Biden traveled under cover of secrecy, becoming the last high-ranking American to enter Ukraine during its 10-week conflict with Russia.

Elsewhere, off the coast of Ukraine, explosions erupted again Sunday in the large Black Sea port of Odessa, which Russia hit with six cruise missiles on Saturday, while rocket fire damaged about 250 apartments, according to the city council.

Ukrainian leaders have warned that the attacks will only get worse on the eve of Victory Day, May 9, when Russia celebrates the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945 with military parades. Russian President Vladimir Putin is believed to want to declare some kind of triumph in Ukraine when he addresses Red Square troops on Monday.

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Zelensky released a video on Sunday marking Allied Victory Day in Europe 77 years ago, drawing parallels between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the evils of Nazism.

A black-and-white video posted on social media shows Zelensky standing in front of a demolished apartment building in Borodyanka, one of Kyiv’s suburbs, smashed before Russian troops withdrew from the capital region weeks ago.

“Every year on May 8, together with the entire civilized world, we pay tribute to all those who defended the planet from Nazism during World War II,” Zelensky said, adding that previous generations of Ukrainians understood the meaning of the words “Never again.” “, A phrase often used as a vow to never repeat the horrors of the Holocaust.

“We knew the price our ancestors paid for this wisdom. We knew how important it was to protect it and pass it on to our descendants. “But we had no idea that our generation would witness the misuse of those words,” he said.

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In neighboring Moldova, Russian and separatist troops are on “full alert,” the Ukrainian military warned. The region is increasingly becoming a center of concern that the conflict could spread beyond Ukraine’s borders.

Pro-Russian forces seceded the Transnistrian section of Moldova in 1992, and Russian troops have been stationed there ever since, ostensibly as peacekeepers. These forces are in “full combat readiness”, Ukraine said, without giving details of how the assessment came about.

Moscow is seeking to encircle southern Ukraine in order to cut off the country from the Black Sea and create a corridor to Transnistria. But he is struggling to achieve these goals.

In a sign of stubborn resistance to the 11th week of fighting, the Ukrainian military is attacking Russian positions on a Black Sea island that was captured in the early days of the war and has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance.

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Satellite images analyzed by the Associated Press show that Ukraine is targeting Russia-held Snake Island in an attempt to thwart Russia’s efforts to control the sea.

A satellite image taken Sunday morning by Planet Labs PBC shows smoke rising from two parts of the island. At the southern end of the island, a fire was smoking to the rubble. This corresponds to a video posted by the Ukrainian military showing a Russian helicopter crash that flew to the island.

The most intense battles in recent days are being fought in eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian counter-offensive near Kharkov, the country’s northeastern largest city, is “making significant progress and is likely to advance to the Russian border in the coming days or weeks,” according to the Institute for War Studies.

The Washington-based think tank added that “Ukraine’s counter-offensive demonstrates promising Ukrainian capabilities.”

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However, the Ukrainian army has withdrawn from the war-torn city of Popasna in Luhansk province, regional governor Haidai said on Sunday. In a video interview published on his Telegram channel, Haidai said Kyiv’s troops had “moved to stronger positions they had prepared in advance”.

Rodion Miroshnik, a representative of the pro-Kremlin, separatist Luhansk People’s Republic, said its forces and Russian troops had captured most of Popasna after two months of fierce fighting.

The Russian-backed rebels have created a breakaway region in Luhansk and neighboring Donetsk, which together make up Ukraine’s industrial center known as Donbass. Russia is targeting areas that are still under Ukrainian control.

The leader of Transnistria, a breakaway territory bordering Ukraine that seceded from Moldova in 1992 and hosts about 1,500 Russian troops, has denied allegations of mobilization in the region. The Ukrainian military has previously warned that Russian and separatist troops are on “full alert” there.

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The president of the unrecognized territory, Vadim Krasnoselski, said it “does not pose a threat to neighboring countries, is neutral and remains committed to the principle of resolving all issues at the negotiating table.”

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Gambrell reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Jessica Fish in Bakhmut, David Keaton in Kyiv, Juras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstislav Chernov in Kharkov, Lolita S. Baldor in Washington and PA officials around the world contributed to the report.

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Follow the coverage of the AP for the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Dozens feared deaths after a Russian bomb leveled a school in Ukraine

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