60 believed killed after school attack by Russia in east Ukraine

Luhansk governor says a Russian air raid on school sheltering civilians likely killed dozens who are buried in the rubble.

Ukraine and the West have accused Russian forces of targeting civilians - allegations Moscow denies [File: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters]

At least 60 people are missing and feared dead in the debris of a burned-out school after a Russian air raid in eastern Ukraine.

The governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai, said on Sunday that two people were confirmed dead after Russian forces dropped a bomb on the school, and 30 civilians had been pulled from the debris.

About 90 people had been sheltering in the school in the village of Bilohorivka, said Haidai, and a fire following Saturday’s attack engulfed the building.

“The fire was extinguished after nearly four hours, then the rubble was cleared and, unfortunately, the bodies of two people were found,” Haidai wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

“Thirty people were evacuated from the rubble, seven of whom were injured. Sixty people were likely to have died under the rubble of buildings.”

Al Jazeera could not immediately verify the comments.

Video released by the Luhansk military administration showed emergency services personnel amid the burning ruins of the building.

An unidentified person can be heard saying, “It is unlikely others have survived. The crater is down to the basement. It’s horrible.”

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Steel mill battle

Ukraine and the West have accused Russian forces of targeting civilians and war crimes, charges Moscow rejects.

The most intense fighting in recent days has been in eastern Ukraine, where the two sides are entrenched in a fierce battle to capture or reclaim territory.

Moscow’s offensive there has focused on the Donbas, where Russia-backed separatists have been fighting since 2014.

Getting a full picture of the unfolding battle in the east has been difficult because airstrikes and artillery barrages have made it extremely dangerous for reporters to move around.

And both Ukraine and the Moscow-backed rebels fighting in the east have introduced tight restrictions on reporting from the combat zone.

Russia’s 10-week-old war on Ukraine has killed thousands, destroyed cities, and driven five million Ukrainians to flee the country.

The besieged port city of Mariupol, a strategic target for Russian forces, has been virtually annihilated with the last 300 civilians trapped in the bombed-out Azovstal steelworks evacuated on Saturday.

Evacuation efforts on Sunday will now focus on getting the wounded and medics out of the steel plant.

Ukrainian fighters in the factory have vowed not to surrender and Russian forces are seeking to declare a victory in the prolonged battle for the vast plant in time for Monday’s Victory Day celebrations in Moscow, which commemorate the Soviet Union’s triumph over Nazi Germany in World War II.

The Soviet-era Azovstal steel mill, the last holdout for Ukrainian forces in the port city, has become a symbol of resistance to the Russian effort to capture swaths of eastern and southern Ukraine.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies