Horror bombing | 

As many as sixty killed as Russian bomb hits village school in eastern Ukraine

"There is almost no hope that anyone survived. The aerial bomb exploded in the middle (of the building)"

Destruction in the village of Bilohorivka

Elena Becatoros

As many as 60 people are feared to have been killed when a bomb struck a village school in eastern Ukraine, the regional governor said yesterday, while Russian forces continued shelling the last holdout of Ukrainian resistance in the ruined south-eastern port of Mariupol.

Luhansk region governor Serhiy Haidai said the school in Bilohorivka, where about 90 people were sheltering, was hit on Saturday by a Russian bomb, setting it ablaze.

"There is almost no hope that anyone survived. The aerial bomb exploded in the middle (of the building)," Mr Haidai wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

"In the school, there were approximately 90 people, 27 were rescued. About 60 people were probably killed."

Reuters could not immediately verify his account.

There was no response from Moscow to the report.

Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Russian forces of targeting civilians in the war, something Moscow denies.

As Russia prepared to celebrate the 1945 surrender of Nazi Germany with a Victory Day military parade today, a line-up of Western leaders and celebrities made surprise visits to Ukraine in a show of support.

US first lady Jill Biden met her Ukrainian counterpart. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised his country's flag at its embassy in Kyiv.

And U2's Bono, alongside bandmate The Edge, performed in a Kyiv subway station that had been used as a bomb shelter, singing the 1960s song Stand By Me.

The newly appointed acting US ambassador to Ukraine, Kristina Kvien, posted a picture of herself at the American embassy, trumpeting plans for the eventual US return to the Ukrainian capital after Moscow's forces abandoned their effort to storm Kyiv weeks ago and began focusing on the capture of the Donbas.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and others warned in recent days that Russian attacks would only worsen in the lead-up to Victory Day, and some cities declared curfews or cautioned people against gathering in public.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is believed to want to proclaim some kind of triumph in Ukraine when he addresses the troops on Red Square.

Destruction in the village of Bilohorivka

"They have nothing to celebrate tomorrow," the US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told CNN.

"They have not succeeded in defeating the Ukrainians. They have not succeeded in dividing the world or dividing Nato. And they have only succeeded in isolating themselves internationally and becoming a pariah state around the globe."

Russian forces struggled to complete their takeover of Mariupol, which has been largely reduced to rubble.

The sprawling seaside steel works where an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian fighters were making what appeared to be their last stand was the only part of the city not under Russian control.

The last of the women, children and older civilians who were taking shelter with the fighters in the Azovstal plant were evacuated on Saturday.

Buses carrying more than 170 evacuees from the steelworks and other parts of Mariupol arrived in the Ukrainian-held city of Zaporizhzhia yesterday, UN officials said.

The Ukrainian defenders in the steel works have rejected deadlines set by the Russians for laying down their arms.

Captain Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Ukrainian Azov Regiment, a unit holding the steel mill, said the site was targeted overnight by war planes, artillery and tanks.

"We are under constant shelling," he said online, adding that Russian ground troops tried to storm the plant - a claim Russian officials denied in recent days - and lay mines. Capt Palamar reported a "multitude of casualties".

Another member of the Azov Regiment, Lieutenant Illya Samoilenko, said there were a couple of hundred wounded soldiers at the plant but declined to reveal how many able-bodied fighters remained. He said fighters did not have life-saving equipment and had to dig by hand to free people from bunkers that had collapsed under the shelling.

"Surrender for us is unacceptable because we cannot grant such a gift to the enemy," Lt Samoilenko said.

The Ukrainian government has reached out to international organisations to try to secure safe passage for the defenders.

On the economic front, leaders from the G7 industrial democracies - the US, Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Japan - pledged to ban or phase out imports of Russian oil and denounced Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

"His actions bring shame on Russia and the historic sacrifices of its people," it said in a statement, referring to the Soviet Union's role in defeating Nazi Germany.

The US also announced new sanctions against Russia, cutting off Western advertising from Russia's three biggest TV stations, banning US accounting and consulting firms from providing services, and cutting off Russia's industrial sector from wood products, industrial engines, boilers and bulldozers.

Mr Trudeau met with Mr Zelensky and made a surprise visit to Irpin, which was damaged in Russia's attempt to take Kyiv.

Mr Zelensky also met the German parliament speaker, Bärbel Bas, in Kyiv to discuss further defence assistance.

Jill Biden visited western Ukraine for a surprise meeting on US Mother's Day with Mr Zelensky's wife, Olena Zelenska.

Mr Zelensky released a video address marking the day of the Allied victory in Europe 77 years ago, drawing parallels between Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the evils of Nazism.

The black-and-white footage showed the Ukrainian president standing in front of a ruined apartment block in Borodyanka, a Kyiv suburb.

Mr Zelensky said that generations of Ukrainians understood the significance of the words "never again", a phrase often used as a vow not to allow a repeat of the horrors of the Holocaust.

Elsewhere, on Ukraine's coast, explosions echoed again across the major Black Sea port of Odesa. At least five blasts were heard, according to local media.

The most intense combat in recent days has taken place in eastern Ukraine.

A Ukrainian counter-offensive near Kharkiv, the country's second-largest city, is making "significant progress," according to the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank.

However, the Ukrainian army withdrew from the embattled eastern city of Popasna, regional authorities said.

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.

"This war is treacherous," the governor, Valentyn Reznichenko, wrote on social media. "It is near, even when it is invisible."

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