The Luhansk region’s Governor Serhiy Gaidai had earlier stated that about 90 people were sheltering in the school in Bilohorivka. He said that after the Russian bomb hit it on Saturday, setting it ablaze, there was “almost no hope” for any survivors. The region has been the site of fierce fighting between Ukrainian troops and Russian separatists, now reinforced by troops from the Kremlin.
Mr Gaidai said via Telegram of the bombed school: “There is almost no hope that anyone survived. The aerial bomb exploded in the middle (of the building).
“In the school, there were approximately 90 people, 27 were rescued.
“About 60 people were probably killed.”
He said that almost the entire village had been sheltering in the basement of the school, adding that it took firefighters three hours to extinguish the blaze.
The final death toll would only be clear once the rubble had cleared, the governor said.
He said Russia was fighting shoulder to shoulder with them, and compared their war effort with the war against Nazi Germany, reinforcing the propaganda line with which he has tried to justify the invasion of Ukraine.
He said in a Kremlin press release: “Victory will be ours”.
Captain Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Azov regiment holding out in the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol has pleaded with the international community to help evacuate wounded soldiers.
Captain Palamar said: “We will continue to fight as long as we are alive to repel the Russian occupiers”.
Lt Illia Samoilenko, also with the Azov battalion in Mariupol, added: “Surrender for us is unacceptable because we can’t grant such a big gift to the enemy.
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“We are basically dead men. Most of us know this. It’s why we fight so fearlessly.”
Today over 170 civilians were evacuated from the Mariupol area, bringing the total to around 600 given safe passage, according to the United Nations.
Mariupol is key to Moscow’s efforts to link the Crimean Peninsula, seized by Russia in 2014, and parts of the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk that have been controlled by Russia-backed separatists since then.
Sanctions against Russia continue to rise, with the G7 – including Joe Biden and Boris Johnson – vowing today to further isolate Russia economically.