ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine (AP) — Dozens of Ukrainians were reportedly killed on Sunday after a Russian bomb razed a school where about 90 people were sheltering in the basement, while Ukrainian fighters held out inside the Mariupol steelworks as Moscow forces apparently rushed to capture the city ahead of Russia victory party.
Emergency teams found two bodies and rescued 30 people at the school in the village of Bilohorivka after Saturday’s bombing, according to the governor of Luhansk province, which is part of the eastern industrial heartland known as name of Donbass.
“Most likely the 60 people who remain under the rubble are now dead,” Governor Serhiy Haidai wrote on the Telegram messaging app. Russian shelling also killed two boys, aged 11 and 14, in the nearby town of Pryvillia, he said.
As Moscow prepared to celebrate Nazi Germany’s surrender in 1945 with a Victory Day military parade on Monday, a series of Western leaders and celebrities made surprise visits to Ukraine in a show of support.
US First Lady Jill Biden meets with her Ukrainian counterpart. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised his country’s flag outside his embassy in Kyiv. And U2’s Bono, alongside bandmate The Edge, performed at a Kyiv metro station that had been used as a bomb shelter, singing the 1960s song ‘Stand by Me’.
The new Acting US Ambassador to Ukraine, Kristina Kvien, posted a photo of herself at the US Embassy, announcing plans for a possible US return to the Ukrainian capital after forces of Moscow abandoned their efforts to storm kyiv weeks ago and began to focus on capture. of Donbass.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and others have warned in recent days that Russian attacks will only get worse as VE Day approaches, and some cities have declared curfews or warned people against public gatherings. Russian President Vladimir Putin is believed to want to proclaim some sort of triumph in Ukraine when he addresses troops in Red Square.
“They have nothing to celebrate tomorrow,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US Ambassador to the United Nations, told CNN. “They failed to defeat the Ukrainians. They failed to divide the world or to divide NATO. And they only succeeded in isolating themselves internationally and becoming a pariah state all over the world.
Russian forces struggled to complete their takeover of Mariupol, which was largely reduced to rubble. The sprawling seaside steelworks where about 2,000 Ukrainian fighters made this seemed to be their last fight was the only part of the city that was not under Russian control.
The last women, children and elderly civilians who had taken refuge with the fighters in the Azovstal factory were evacuated on Saturday. Buses carrying more than 170 evacuees from the steel plant and other parts of Mariupol arrived in the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia on Sunday, UN officials said.
Ukrainian defenders of the steelworks have rejected Russian deadlines for laying down their arms.
Captain Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Ukrainian Azov Regiment, a unit holding the steel plant, said the site had been targeted overnight by fighter jets, artillery and tanks.
“We are constantly being bombarded,” he said online, adding that Russian ground troops had tried to storm the factory – a claim Russian officials have denied in recent days – and lay mines. Palamar reported a “multitude of victims”.
Lieutenant Illya Samoilenko, another member of the Azov regiment, said there were a few hundred wounded soldiers at the factory, but declined to reveal how many able-bodied fighters remained. He said fighters had no lifesaving equipment and had to dig by hand to free people from bunkers that had collapsed in the shelling.
“For us, surrender is unacceptable because we cannot bestow such a gift on the enemy,” Samoilenko said.
The Ukrainian government has contacted international organizations to try to ensure safe passage for the defenders.
On the economic front, the leaders of the Group of Seven industrial democracies have pledged to ban or phase out imports of Russian oil. The G-7 is made up of the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Japan.
The United States also announced new sanctions against Russia, cutting off Western advertising from Russia’s three largest television channels, banning American accounting and consulting firms from providing services, and cutting off Russia’s industrial wood products sector, industrial engines, boilers and bulldozers.
Trudeau met with Zelenskyy and paid a surprise visit to Irpin, which was damaged in Russia’s attempt to take kyiv. The Ukrainian president also met with the speaker of the German parliament, Bärbel Bas, in Kyiv to discuss additional defense aid.
Jill Biden visited western Ukraine for a surprise Mother’s Day encounter with Zelenskyy’s wife, Olena Zelenska.
Zelenskyy released a video address marking Allied Victory Day in Europe 77 years ago, drawing parallels between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the evils of Nazism. The black-and-white footage showed Zelenskyy standing in front of a crumbling building in Borodyanka, a Kyiv suburb.
Zelenskyy said generations of Ukrainians understood the meaning of the words “Never again,” an expression often used as a vow not to allow a repeat of the horrors of the Holocaust.
Elsewhere on the Ukrainian coast, explosions again echoed in the great port of Odessa on the Black Sea. At least five explosions were heard, according to local media.
The Ukrainian military said Moscow was focusing its main efforts on destroying airfield infrastructure in eastern and southern Ukraine.
In a sign of the fierce resistance that sustained the fighting in its 11th week, the Ukrainian army struck Russian positions on a Black Sea island that was captured in the early days of the war. A satellite image from Planet Labs showed smoke rising from two sites on the island.
But Moscow’s forces showed no signs of backing down in the south. Satellite photos show Russia stationing armored vehicles and missile systems at a small base on the Crimean peninsula.
The heaviest fighting in recent days has taken place in eastern Ukraine. A Ukrainian counteroffensive in the northeast near Kharkiv, the country’s second city, is making “significant progress”, according to the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank.
However, the Ukrainian army has withdrawn from the besieged eastern town of Popasna, regional authorities said.
Rodion Miroshnik, a representative of the pro-Kremlin breakaway Luhansk People’s Republic, said his forces and Russian troops had captured most of Popasna after two months of fierce fighting.
The Kharkiv regional administration said three people were killed in the shelling of the town of Bogodukhiv, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the city of Kharkiv.
South of Kharkiv in Dnipropetrovsk province, the governor said a 12-year-old boy was killed by a cluster munition he found after a Russian attack. An international treaty prohibits the use of such explosives, but neither Russia nor Ukraine has signed the agreement.
“This war is treacherous,” Governor Valentyn Reznichenko wrote on social media. “It’s close, even when it’s invisible.”
Gambrell reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Yesica Fisch in Bakhmut, David Keyton in Kyiv, Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstyslav Chernov in Kharkiv, Lolita C. Baldor in Washington, and AP staff around the world contributed to this report.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
Elena Becatoros and Jon Gambrell, Associated Press