Two people are confirmed to have died and another 60 people trapped under rubble are feared dead after Russia bombed a school in Ukraine’s Luhansk region.
About 90 people are said to have been sheltering the school when Vladimir Putin’s forces shelled the village of Bilohorivka on Saturday afternoon, causing a fire that engulfed the building, Luhansk governor Serhiy Gaidai said.
Mr Gaidai said 30 people had been rescued from the smouldering debris but it is thought many remain trapped underneath.
Nexta, a Belarus-based media outlet, reported that the two dead were children, though this has not been confirmed by officials.
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“The fire was extinguished after nearly four hours, then the rubble was cleared, and, unfortunately, the bodies of two people were found,” Gaidai wrote in a Telegram post, adding: “Sixty people were likely to have died under the rubble of buildings.”
He said the bomb was dropped on a building where “almost the whole village was hiding” from Russian attacks.
Mr Gaidai said 11 people were also thought to have been trapped after shelling destroyed a house in the village of Shypilovo.
Ukraine and western nations have accused the Russian military of committing war crimes by launching indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas, including hospitals and schools, charges rejected by Moscow.
Putin’s war on Ukraine has killed thousands, razed once-bustling cities to the ground and driven 5 million Ukrainians to flee abroad.
The strategic southern port city of Mariupol has been near flattened by unrelentling Russian attacks. The bombed-out Azovstal steelworks became the last stronghold of Ukrainian defence forces in the region. An estimated 300 civilians were thought to be sheltering there to make a final stand to prevent a complete takeover of the city.
Rescuers have been working for several days to evacuate civilians from the tunnels beneath the sprawling plant.
On Saturday evening, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister announced that all women, children and the elderly have been removed from the Soviet-era steelworks.
Iryna Vereshchuk said: “The president’s order has been carried out: all women, children and the elderly have been evacuated from Azovstal. This part of the Mariupol humanitarian operation has been completed.”
No further details were given.
It was reported by the Russian news agency Tass that 50 civilians had been escorted from the plant on Saturday, and a similar number left on Friday.
An estimated 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers remain there.
In his nightly video address on Saturday, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said evacuation efforts in Mariupol’s steelworks will focus on the wounded and medics after all the women, children and elderly were brought to safety.
He reported last night that more than 300 civilians had been rescued from the vast plant.