Russian Airstrike Kills Villagers Taking Shelter at School, Ukraine Says – The Wall Street Journal.

Russian Airstrike Kills Villagers Taking Shelter at School, Ukraine Says

By Yaroslav Trofimov 

Shelling continued Saturday at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, southeastern Ukraine. PHOTO: Alexandrov/Associated press

KHARKIV, Ukraine—A Russian airstrike is believed to have killed some 60 villagers who had taken refuge in a school in the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk, authorities there said, as heavy fighting raged across the country.

The airstrike, late Saturday in the village of Bilohorivka, hit a school and a nearby concert hall, causing a fire. By the time the fire was extinguished hours later, rescuers had pulled out 30 survivors and found two bodies, while some 60 others who remain under the rubble are presumed dead, said Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai.

Footage released by Mr. Haidai showed a smoldering crater above what used to be the school’s basement.

Ukrainian authorities released this image Sunday, saying it shows emergency workers at a school building attacked by Russian forces in Bilohorivka, Luhansk. STATE EMERGENCY SERVICE/via REUTERS

“The Russians don’t care whom they kill. If they can’t kill a soldier, they kill an innocent child,” Mr. Haidai said in a social-media post. Ukraine’s rescue service said it would continue looking for possible survivors in Bilohorivka on Sunday.

Russian authorities didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Russian forces have made significant advances in the Luhansk region in recent days, with the Wagner mercenary group taking most of the strategic town of Popasna and other troops inching closer to the capital of the Ukrainian-administered part of the region, Severodonetsk.

Only a small part of the region remains under Ukrainian control, and authorities have urged all civilians to leave.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in February recognized the independence of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics, statelets created by Moscow in 2014 in the part of eastern Ukraine collectively known as Donbas.

After pulling forces from the vicinity of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, in late March, Mr. Putin declared what he called the liberation of Donbas as the war’s key goal. He later cited the seizure of the city of Mariupol, where Ukrainian defenders remain holed up in the Azovstal steel plant compound, as a major success.

A girl evacuated from Mariupol in the Donetsk-area village of Bezimenne. ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO/REUTERS
Fighting in eastern Ukraine has driven civilians to flee via towns and cities such as pokrovsk. Chris McGrath/Getty Images

While Russian forces are making slow but steady progress in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, they have suffered significant setbacks in the Kharkiv region to the north.

In a counteroffensive, Ukrainian troops this weekend continued pushing north and northeast of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-most populous city, after ousting Russian forces from key towns in its immediate vicinity. At the same time, Ukrainian troops attacked the flank of the Russian troops advancing toward Donbas, striking west of the city of Izyum, according to reports from both sides.

Ukraine is also continuing its campaign to deny Russian forces the use of the strategic Snake Island southwest of the Black Sea port of Odessa. Russia captured the island on the first day of the war, Feb. 24.

The Ukrainian military, which struck two Raptor-class Russian patrol boats near the island last week, said this weekend it hit a Serna-type landing craft with an air-defense system aboard, and two more Raptor vessels. Drone footage released by the Ukrainian military showed a vessel exploding and an airstrike on the island by what appeared to be Ukrainian jet fighters.

Another video, released on Sunday, showed a drone strike hitting what appeared to be a Russian helicopter as troops were disembarking on the island.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said Sunday it destroyed four Ukrainian warplanes, four helicopters, and a Ukrainian landing vessel near Snake Island. It offered no evidence. Ministry officials haven’t commented on the claimed Ukrainian strikes against the Russian navy.

A crater left by a Russian airstrike in Barhmut, in the Eastern region of Donesk. Evgeniy Maloletka/Associated press

Ukrainian officials have warned that Moscow may be planning a particularly heavy series of strikes on Monday when Russia commemorates the Soviet Union’s victory in World War II. Some regions, such as Odessa, have announced a curfew from Sunday evening to Monday morning.

Western officials and analysts expect Mr. Putin to use Monday’s event to address the war in Ukraine, possibly declaring victory or, in what some see as a more likely scenario, pledging to carry on the fight.

Mr. Putin might call for a mass mobilization of Russia’s army and its citizens, some Western and Ukrainian defense and intelligence officials have speculated. The Kremlin has brushed off such talk as unfounded rumors.

The U.S. has provided critical military gear for Ukraine’s defense, and President Biden on Friday announced another round of security assistance to Ukraine that will include artillery munitions, radar systems, and other equipment.

An administration official said the equipment, valued at up to $150 million, will include artillery rounds, counter artillery radars, jamming equipment, field equipment, and spare parts.

Ann M. Simmons contributed to this article.

Write to Yaroslav Trofimov at

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