Ukraine: Dozens feared dead after bomb hits school

Dozens of people are feared dead after a bomb hit a school in east Ukraine, where government forces are battling Russian troops and separatists.

Luhansk region’s governor, Serhiy Haidai, confirmed two deaths, saying 60 people were feared dead under the rubble of the school in Bilohorivka.

About 90 people had been sheltering in the building and 30 were rescued, seven of them wounded, he added.

Haidai said a Russian plane had dropped the bomb on Saturday.

His accusation could not be verified independently and there was no immediate response from Russia.

Luhansk has seen fierce combat as Russian troops and separatist fighters seek to surround government forces, just over two months since the start of the Russian invasion.

Much of Luhansk, which along with Donetsk forms part of the Donbas region, has been under the control of the separatists for the past eight years.

Bilohorivka is close to the government-held city of Severodonetsk, where heavy fighting was reported in the suburbs on Saturday. One Ukrainian newspaper, Ukrayinska Pravda, says the village became a “hot spot” during fighting last week.

The blast brought down the building which caught fire and it took firefighters three hours to extinguish the blaze, according to the governor, writing on Telegram.

He said almost the entire village had been sheltering in the basement of the school.

The final death toll would only be known when the rubble had been cleared, the governor said.

Elsewhere in the country, Ukrainian fighters at a steelworks in the port of Mariupol have told the world they will not surrender to Russian forces and have appealed for help to evacuate their wounded.

Russia has besieged the area for weeks, calling on defenders from the Azov battalion to lay down their arms.

But in a live news conference from the partially destroyed plant, members of the battalion said they would not give in.

One of them, Lt Illia Samoilenko, said: “Surrender for us is unacceptable because we can’t grant such a big gift to the enemy.”

He added: “We are basically dead men. Most of us know this. It’s why we fight so fearlessly.”

The fighters also criticised the Ukrainian government, saying it had failed in the defence of Mariupol. But President Volodymyr Zelensky hit back, saying Ukraine did not have the heavy weaponry needed to unblock the city and that it was his own diplomatic efforts that had secured the evacuation of all civilians trapped inside the steelworks. (BBC)

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